COMING CLEAN ABOUT BISEXUALITY
A male perspective
Second Revised Edition 
1. Opening gambit
2 Are people really either gay or straight?
3 Doesn't any kind of promiscuity destabilise a relationship?
4 Is male homosexuality always anal?
5 Is a bisexual lifestyle healthy?
6 What is gained by living bisexually?
7 What are the similarities and differences between
the two ways of loving?
8 Can you have a viable lifestyle as a bisexual?
9 How long has bisexuality been around?
10 How has bisexuality fared more recently?
11 The Englishman abroad
12 Where do we go from here?
13 Getting it together
14 Educating for a brighter future
1: OPENING GAMBIT
My main qualification for wanting to come clean about bisexuality is the fact that I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a long, happy and diverse sex life which has contributed more to my good health and sense of well-being than any other single factor. This is in no small measure due to the fact that bisexuality has been at the heart of my sexual experience from start to finish. I feel it is almost my duty to share that experience.
For me, as for far more people than would care to admit it, sex has always seemed about the most engrossing subject there is. I remember feeling this as a small boy. I knew very little about the facts of the matter but I sensed their erotic pull. I now know a good deal about the facts of the matter, but the erotic pull remains undiminished. I do not think there is anything unusual or remarkable about this beyond the fact that many who share my enthusiasm for sex are very reluctant to acknowledge it, even in some cases to themselves.
As a lad of six or seven, playing doctors with my big sister and her pals, I knew there was something far more exciting and fascinating about the touch and exploration of other bodies, especially the hidden bits, than I had any reason to expect; I just felt it. Now, I can view a seeming infinity of male bodies on the computer, many of them proudly exhibiting their pricks, a surprising number of them as beautiful as they are sexy, and not merely feel their erotic attraction but also account for it.
My adult experience of sex has made my childhood fascination much easier to explain. Even so, there is still an element of mystery and excitement which defies rationalisation. I have been endowed with a big head but not specially big genitals. In spite of this, I have learned not to let my head bully my balls.
Already, I have a little explaining to do.
On the linguistic front, you will notice I favour Anglo-Saxon sexual terminology. I have talked about "pricks" and "balls" and this may seem to you unwarrantably crude - not the kind of thing you expect to encounter in a book which purports to be serious about sex.
It is hardly surprising, in view of the way most of us have been reared, if you feel like this. If you are one of this number, I would beg you to come to terms with this feeling, recognise it for what it is and be prepared to spend some time allowing it to change.
If we confine our attention to the male organ for the present, it must surely have occurred to you that the so-called 'proper' term is badly out of step with our words for other body parts: head, ear, eye, mouth, nose, leg, foot, arm, hand, etc. When have you heard even a doctor using a variant for any of these words?
The word 'penis' is Latin and means 'tail', suggesting immediately we feel sheepish about talking about it at all and can only do so by using a foreign word for a body part we don’t actually have and which, even if we did, would be entirely sexless.
Another deficiency of the term 'penis' is its failure to indicate which of its two states this organ is currently in. It is surely outrageous that a part of the body which has two quite distinct functions and which looks quite different when performing each of them should always be referred to by the same blanket term? It is as if we do not want to acknowledge the remarkable versatility of the 'penis', preferring to let it hang its head in shame.
Were we not conditioned to be so evasive, it would be much simpler to refer to a 'flaccid penis' as a 'cock' [= a tap] and an 'erect penis' as a 'prick' [= an organ which is stiff enough to penetrate]. True, because these words have customarily been regarded as disreputable, they have been used carelessly and often interchangeably, though I notice there is a growing tendency to use them more carefully, in the way I have just indicated.
Another deficiency of the word 'penis' is its extreme awkwardness in the plural. If I had agreed to be saddled with it, I should have needed, when talking about my Net-viewing just now, to talk about 'penises' or 'penes', both of which are an abomination. It is probably for this reason Dr James Docherty, in his excellent "guide for children and parents" about the facts of life, refers to a whole page of photographs of twinned cocks and pricks by a collective singular - 'the penis'. These photographs, incidentally, are designed to show children the various shapes and sizes in which the male organ comes and the difference between the erect and the flaccid state of the same organ. [<>see his Growing Up, Modus/Royal Society of Medicine, 1986, pp. 46f].
If, as soon as we talk to our children about sex, we feel obliged to refer to 'penises' and 'vaginas', which sometimes (not too often) 'have sexual intercourse', we make it quite clear we feel as uncomfortable about this subject as the words sound when we try to talk about it.
It can be argued, of course, that we do need two separate vocabularies to distinguish educative or scientific discourse about sex from pornography or titillation. The fatal flaw in this argument is that no words can rob sex of its sexiness. I have overheard schoolboys talking to each other about sex in a swimming-pool changing room. They have often been using the 'proper' terms, but not in a way their parents and teachers would have regarded as proper!
Perhaps I should also explain why I have just admitted it is male nudes which constitute my preferred viewing on the Net. This seems to indicate I am gay.
If by 'gay' is meant that my dominant sex drive is homosexual, this is not misleading. I find sex (non-anal) with the right fellow more exciting than anything else in life.
But this admission by no means ties it all up into a neat little parcel. I am also a married man with two daughters and four grandchildren - and wouldn't change that for all the world. I find sex with my wife still the most satisfying (if not always the most exciting) of experiences and I love the complementarity of living with her. I find it hard to envisage an exclusively gay lifestyle which could be as rounded or as fulfilling.
For at least the last forty years I have accepted my bisexuality and been able to eventually work out a satisfying bisexual lifestyle. I want to share what I have learned because, when I read what various sexologists have to say on this subject, I usually find, whilst a good deal of it may be informative and consistent with my own experience, some strikes me as dangerously wide of the mark. I shall be giving examples in subsequent chapters.
The biggest problem, however, is the ease with which a married bisexual, provided he acts with reasonable discretion, can seem to be conforming to the conventional 'straight' stereotype. In fact there seems to be almost a conspiracy to ensure this is what happens. Sometimes, in conversation, I have divulged my bisexual lifestyle to a friend. The friend has looked decidedly uncomfortable and, as quickly as possible, changed the subject. Since I have no desire to make a 'big deal' of my sex life and know my wife would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie, I have not complained about this. But surely the time is now right to be more open if only because it is dishonest and misleading for people like myself to give the wrong impression to youngsters.
To a degree, the blatant veiling or 'closeting' of unwelcome sexual facts, which has been such a prominent feature of the British ethos, is simply a by-product of our cherished right to privacy in the sexual domain. So long as our activities are not offending or harming other people, they are our own business, nobody else's. Few married couples want to put themselves in the kind of spotlight which could become highly intrusive, a threat to the integrity of their relationship and a source of anxiety for their children.
On the other hand, if all seemingly straight couples are assumed to be as straight as they seem, this is a serious distortion of the actual situation and is particularly misleading for young people, who often lack the experience to distinguish between appearance and reality. Men who live bisexually are said to outnumber men who are exclusively gay in the ratio of three to two [<>see article entitled Understanding and Orienting Queer Students: Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity Development Applied to a Student Orientation Program by Kimberley K. Goodwin (Internet), where she cites work done by Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin in 1948]. Although my own experience would suggest this is a very conservative estimate, if almost all married bisexuals are invisible to friends and neighbours, sceptics can be forgiven for challenging those statistics.
The secrecy is not all in the public domain either. I have had sexual relationships or encounters with quite a number of married men whose own wives have been blissfully unaware of what was going on. Inevitably this has introduced an element of furtiveness into the relationship, preventing the openness needed for the development of a balanced friendship.
Although my own sexual outlook and experience will seem utterly alien to many men whose genes and histories are different from mine, many of these men would be genuinely surprised if they knew how common people like myself actually are. In my own case, sexual intimacies with youths and men of widely differing types, in three continents, over five decades, has taught me I am by no means unusual - in spite of what social convention in this and other countries would have us believe.
Leonard Bernstein affords an unusually honest example of the type of married bisexual I represent. Without doubt America's most versatile and accomplished musician to date, Bernstein was always quite open about his bisexual lifestyle. He married in 1951 and had three children over the next decade. In 1971 he embarked on a trial separation from his wife in order to live with Tom Cochran, thinking, now the children had grown, he would feel easier in a less ambiguously gay environment. It did not work out that way. He was back with his wife within a year, having learned the hard way how much he needed her. Unfortunately his wife, Felicia, died of cancer seven years later. [<>See webpages which include information about Bernstein's sexuality, including the articles in Wikipedia and in Fyne Times: also contributions by Mark Eden Horowitz and Paul Myers, and the site devoted to West Side Story]
If social pressure to conform to a monolithic sexual stereotype is less oppressive than it was when I was a youth, this greater fluidity has also made some people more frightened. Faced with some knowledge of the range of sexual types and lifestyles around them, these people become less tolerant than ever. As the familiar walls begin to crumble, they try desperately to shore them up. AIDS has given them an excellent excuse for trying to marginalise the people they regard as sexual and social renegades.
There is in any case always a time lag between what the better informed sexologists and more adventurous lovers are saying is 'normal' or virtually universal and what society at large is prepared to accept or condone,
“Wanking” [<>Americans would probably be more at home with 'jerking (or jacking) off' but the English term has the merit of only having the one syllable and the one meaning] is a case in point. Only sixty years ago, when Kinsey first dropped his bombshell, 'masturbation' or 'self-abuse' was still being denounced as a vicious habit which could lead to blindness or insanity. No healthy-minded boy would yield to such a degrading and hazardous temptation. [<>Lord Baden-Powell wrote, in his Scouting To-day, that masturbation was a most unhealthy abuse of the 'private parts', warning his young readers 'if you misuse them while young you will not be able to use them when you are a man; they will not work then.' Those who yield to temptation can expect anything from palpitations to lunacy as a result. Quoted from Michael Rosenthal, The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the origins of the Boy Scout Movement, Collins 1986, p. 187.] Boys caught wanking each other in a boarding school could expect expulsion or, at the very least, a very severe dressing down.
Most of the sex manuals published since Kinsey have actually encouraged wanking as a safety valve, a valuable means of playing in the sex organs, a means of acquiring erotic technique, a harmless source of pleasure, a healthy physical release, and, by no means least, a safeguard against rushing into ill-considered and possibly lethal sexual adventures with others.
In spite of all this, there are some religious circles in which none of this would seem to have happened. Wanking continues to be regarded, on the rare occasions when it is alluded to, as a quite unnecessary and sinful [<>often with vague and irrelevant reference to the 'sin of Onan', who 'spilled his seed' rather than beget a child for Tamar, his widowed sister-in-law (Gen 38:8-9; see Deut 25:5-10)] self-indulgence. Such circles try to perpetuate the idea that sex is the divinely ordained mechanism for reproducing ourselves and should only be engaged in by married couples who are at least open to the possibility of conceiving a child, hence the traditional Roman Catholic hostility to all contraceptive devices.
Gayness is another case in point. Sixty years ago, homosexuality was hardly talked about and only practised by those prepared to risk imprisonment and social ostracism. The conventional wisdom was that the overwhelming majority of human beings were exclusively heterosexual, with only a handful of unfortunate or perverse 'inverts' hovering somewhere in the shadows.
Now, gayness is constantly being talked about in the media and is known to permeate the arts and even to penetrate the more macho sanctuaries of science and sport. The man who pioneered computer technology in this country is now known to have been gay and has a gay website in his honour [<>see the 'Alan Turing' website]. More than one winner of the women's tennis championship at Wimbledon is now known to have been at least partly lesbian.
This has not prevented gangs of backwoodsmen from going on gay-bashing sprees, nor has it become any easier for some sons and daughters to 'come out' to their parents.
Bisexuality, however, is still something of a conundrum to the majority of people. Sixty years ago it had scarcely been heard of. Now, although a good deal is said about it, there remains a great deal of fear, confusion, and ignorance about it.
The 'gayness' we read about in the history books, whether in ancient Greece or in not-so-ancient Britain, turns out, more often than not, to have been more accurately described as bisexuality. Most of the more famous 'gays' were actually married men with children, not least Oscar Wilde himself. Many militant gay activists resist this muddying of what they like to regard as a clear-cut, either-or issue, but they are embarrassed by the fact many well-known and practically exclusively gay men (from E M Forster onwards), who would shrink from the prospect of marriage themselves, have been vocal in their preference for married men - even married policemen! - as longer-term sexual partners.
What adds greatly to the confusion is the fact we touched on earlier: most practising bisexuals are invisible. Since they all engage in heterosexual sex and mostly keep quiet about their homosexual sex, they are generally assumed to be “straight“.
This can be very puzzling for a youngster. A good deal of excellent material used for PSE [Personal and Social Education] in schools, and most of the handbooks about sex in the bookshops, make it clear that only a minority of people on the outer edges of the Kinsey spectrum are unaware of ambivalence in their sex drive. Yet this ambivalence is rarely visible out there in society. People who are married or living with female partners are assumed to be heterosexual, whilst others may be known to be, whether flamboyantly or discreetly, homosexual. The latter have only been visible for the last fifty years since they had no legal right to exist before then.
OK, say our schoolchildren, so there are plenty of “straights” around and quite a few “gays“. where on earth are all these “bisexuals“?
As we have seen, people who do live bisexually often, so far from feeling a need to declare themselves, feel a distinct need not to declare themselves. A fellow who falls for a girl knows, if he is to stand a chance with her, he has to declare his love so that, if it is reciprocated, he and she can be publicly recognised as a couple. Even when they remain unmarried, they are likely to cohabit and to become co-parents without any attempt at secrecy.
A fellow seeking a male partner will also often have declared himself by 'coming out', perhaps going 'on the scene', thereby increasing the range of his options.
The case is rather different with men who live bisexually. Very few of these men are what Masters and Johnson termed 'ambisexual' [<>see W.H.Masters and V.E.Johnson, Human Sexual Response, 1966, and Homosexuality in Perspective, 1979], as indifferent to gender as 'ambidextrous' people are to left or right. Most bisexual men have a pronounced bias in favour of one gender but, at the same time, they have discovered in themselves a less imperious sexual and emotional need for the other. Although this other need is not as urgent as the dominant drive, its satisfaction is still vitally important if they are to feel complete as people. [<>It is for this reason it is highly misleading to define 'bisexuals' as those who sit exactly in the centre of the seven-shaded Kinsey spectrum, yet this is what Maurice Yaffé and Elizabeth Fenwick do in the key to their Sexual Profile Graph at the end of Sexual Happiness for Men, Dorling Kindersley, 1986, p.160. It is much sounder to define the minority who are poised more or less in the centre of the spectrum as 'ambisexual' and the majority who inhabit all but the outer fringes and the exact centre as in some degree 'bisexual']
Since my own sexuality is not even-handed, at least so far as drive is concerned (my primary drive being homosexual), it is worth quoting from the website of Michael W. Ebert, who tells us, after some detail about his musical and artistic interests:
I'm also an avowed bisexual; this little fact has figured prominently in my life, too. I have a lot of debates with my friends about bisexuality--most of them use the word to describe a kind of a "dually appetitive" state, i.e., a state in which an individual has one sexual appetite for men, and another, distinct one for women. When I use the term as a label for myself, however, I am describing a kind of "ambisexuality", a state in which an individual perceives no important difference between men and women in terms of objects of sexual desire. Basically, I find myself attracted to minds, wits, bodies, quirks, etc.--personalities dictate my desire. Intimacy is intimacy; sex is sex; and tenderness is tenderness.
What is especially confusing is that many men (like myself) who live bisexually in spite of having a marked bias in the homosexual direction, actually cohabit with a woman, enjoy a stable relationship with her, and, in many cases, become doting fathers. Such men are often respectably married and highly regarded professionally unless or until some scandal upsets the applecart - as has happened rather tragically with more than one highly placed UK politician in recent years.
Why is it such men seem to be so greedy, wanting the best of both worlds?
It doesn't really take a great deal of imagination to find the answer. If a man's sex drive is predominantly gay, nothing, not even a lifetime of happy conjugal sex, is going to alter it. But that does not necessarily mean he is going to want to 'come out', walk away from his partner and adopt an exclusively gay lifestyle.
For one thing, he may not want his sexuality to become his most widely advertised feature or his most constant preoccupation; for another, he may be keen to become a father and may, in any case, find the prospect of living with a woman more attractive than that of living with a man.
Suppose such a man does get married and have children, he has basically three options. First, he may try to suppress his dominant drive altogether and try to become wholeheartedly heterosexual. If sex works out well in marriage, as it often does, this may seem to be a fairly attainable goal - though it rarely is. A good deal of the rage vented by husbands on their wives is the by-product of suppressed, often unacknowledged, homosexuality. Inwardly they are crying, with Professor Higgins, "Why can't a woman be more like a man!".
His second option, the one I adopted, is to tell his prospective bride the truth about his sexuality, perhaps expressing his hope, now he has fallen in love with her, his homosexual urge will sink into the background once they are married. This leaves her free to decide whether or not she wants to take the risk of marrying him.
His third option obviously is to say nothing and hope for the best; this is the one most commonly adopted and the one which fits best with our long history of sexual subterfuge and hypocrisy.
How do wives react to these three kinds of bisexual husband or partner?
To the first kind, the reaction is likely to be one of lifelong puzzlement about behaviour which seems wholly unaccountable; in the worst cases, she may end up seeking refuge in a shelter for battered wives.
To the second, there is likely to be a period of fading hope that the husband's experience of sex with herself will render his homosexual urge redundant, followed by a period of adjustment to the fact it hasn't and won't, not ever.
To the third, there will probably be a nagging suspicion (which may be either confronted or evaded) that her husband is hiding something important from her; should she suddenly chance on the truth, this may come as a dreadful shock, especially if it is something she had been totally unprepared for.
Whichever of the three courses he adopts, no bisexually active man who is happily married and has children is going to want to do anything which could very adversely affect, perhaps even wreck, his family life. He is therefore likely to feel the homosexual side of his life has to be kept hidden (even from his wife if he has adopted the third option). If he has confided in his wife (the second option), she may have stipulated he must be discreet since, though she may have decided she can live with his bisexuality, she knows it would be hard to live with a scandal which could blight her life and the lives of the children.
Whilst all this is very understandable, it is very far from ideal. Clearly, what would or would not cause traumatic scandal depends very much on the prevailing social ethos. Only a few years ago, it was considered shameful for an unmarried woman to become pregnant or for a married couple to seek divorce or for a couple to live together without being married. Few eyebrows would be raised these days by any of these happenings. Even U.S. President Bill Clinton's eventually very public affair with Monica Lewinsky was not considered sufficiently eyebrow-raising by American voters to make a threatened impeachment possible - to the great embarrassment of his political opponents.
Where anything concerning homosexuality or bisexuality is concerned, the situation is still confusingly uneven. What would not even cause the raising of eyebrows in most large cities may, if discovered, still totally dislocate the lives of people living in a small town or village.
We are thus in this strange situation where children at school may be told that virtually everybody is in some degree bisexual, where sex manuals routinely convey the same message, yet where almost nobody seems to be living bisexually.
The message still most powerfully projected to the naive observer is that the majority of men are straight, a minority are queer but a tiny few just can't make up their minds or don't have the guts to 'come out'.
Such a travesty of the actual situation and of the facts about human sexuality badly needs to be corrected. Anybody who grew up in the era before Kinsey must be profoundly grateful for the revolution which the introduction of a little factual enquiry has introduced into the sexual arena. Instead of lofty sermonising (often highly hypocritical) about how sex lives should be lived, we are now increasingly aware of how sex lives actually are lived.
Inevitably Kinsey attracted a great deal of criticism: it was maintained his survey techniques were flawed and his statistics unreliable; he was too involved personally for his research to be regarded as scientific or objective; he himself had some atypical sexual propensities - and so on.
After reviewing these criticisms, Merl Storr has given a judicious recent assessment of the value of Kinsey's work as follows:
Whatever the shortcomings or otherwise of Kinsey’s data ... his conceptual contribution has been of major and lasting importance, and his model of human sexuality as a continuum running from heterosexuality to homosexuality has become a staple of sexological and popular debates alike [<>Merl Storr [ed], Bisexuality: a critical reader, 1999, Routledge, p.31].
The critics rarely saluted Kinsey's courage in daring to explore a field which desperately needed investigating but which other researchers had thought it wiser to ignore. Freud and his colleagues may have uncovered a great deal of surprising and hitherto unsuspected sexual eccentricity in their patients, including a number of children, but nobody before Kinsey had dared pry into the sexual behaviour of a broad spectrum of people who felt no pressing need to be psychoanalysed.
The proof of the basic validity of Kinsey's work is its aftermath. Nothing has been the same since he took the lid off and brought out into the open what many people had previously been reluctant to admit even to themselves.
We now take it for granted most boys wank and a surprising number engage in homosexual behaviour. We no longer have much confidence in the sexual code a person pays lip service to, suspecting it probably gives little indication of the code he actually lives by. We are not particularly surprised to learn that an American President or a British Prime Minister has been caught doing things which contradict his declared code of sexual probity.
There is, of course, still a great deal of evasion and hypocrisy. There are still plenty of people who might be persuaded to tell the truth in answering a confidential questionnaire but who would not dream of divulging this information to their parents or their sexual partners.
As a result, people are at such different stages on the road to sexual openness it can be difficult to know what another person actually thinks, let alone does, when it comes to sex. Even people who have known each other for years and know each other to be quite like-minded may still play hide-and-seek in this arena.
Indeed, knowing a person well can often actually inhibit frankness in these matters. Friends may fear a candid sexual self-disclosure could cost them the friendship or at least destroy the ease they had previously felt in each other’s company. Adolescent children may fear too much frankness with their parents could even cause them to be disowned.
This means, in spite of all that now gets said and written about sex in books, magazines, newspapers, on TV, on the Internet, on Videos, etc, there is still a great deal of inhibition, prejudice, frustration, fear and muddle-headedness about many of the central issues, especially anything relating to bisexuality.
Some of the material which circulates is 'serious' and informative, though often dull and ponderous, employing technical terms which alienate the very people it is designed to reach. Some of it advertises itself as 'porn', catering with widely varying degrees of taste and responsibility for all sexual proclivities, but most of it unashamedly exploiting sex for financial gain.
In my experience, there are still many areas which have not been adequately thought through or about which there is still far too much ignorance or confusion. The questions which head the following chapters are designed to explore some of these areas.
2: ARE PEOPLE REALLY EITHER GAY OR STRAIGHT?
In the European tradition we have a passion for categorising. In the moral sphere, our categories tend to be slotted into one or other of two opposed boxes, e.g.:-
good / evil
virtue / vice
right / wrong
godly / demonic
respectable / disreputable
love / lust
scientific sexology / pornography
heterosexual / homosexual
Contrast with this the ancient Chinese concepts of yin and yang. These are opposed concepts but nobody in China would regard the one as good and the other as evil, one to be fostered and the other stamped out. Both yin and yang are essential for the creation and sustenance of life and process; you cannot have one without the other; they are like the twin poles of an electrical current or the opposite poles of a magnetic field.
The same is even more clearly apparent in the familiar Taoist symbol, which also comes from China, depicting two matching tadpoles, one black and one white, both enclosed within the same circle and each with a dot of the other's colour in it.
My own thinking about sexuality was influenced by many conversations I had with young Indian students. These talks were spread over the period I spent in South India between 1954 and 1966 at the outset of my career.
The first thing which struck me when I arrived in India was the way youths or men would walk around holding hands or with arms round shoulders which were usually bare. The second thing was the way children would move around their villages stark naked right up to the age of puberty, the boys often having their genitals fondled or manipulated by the older males in the village. This was so contrary to anything I had experienced in Britain I was eager to try to learn what these students thought about all this.
I invariably found they became very puzzled when I started talking about homosexuality as opposed to heterosexuality. This was in the late 50s and early 60s, when, in the wake of the Kinsey report, there was a great deal of controversy about the business of sexual orientation and legality in Britain. The government had set up the Wolfenden Committee to investigate this area and report back to parliament.
My Indian students enjoyed talking about sex. They found it liberating to be able to air the subject with an older male because, as they were fond of telling me, this rarely happened in India. But when I asked them about homosexuality, they were initially quite baffled. When I tried to explain our distinction between hetero- and homo- sexuality, their puzzlement often became mingled with discomfort; I had obviously introduced a new concept which was wholly alien to them. It was as if I had put a spoon in their hands at lunch time and asked them to eat their rice with that instead of with their hands.
For these students, there were simply people for whom they felt varying degrees of affection. They took it for granted they would eventually get married and have children and their parents would arrange partners for them, but, since this was not a matter of 'falling in love', at least to begin with, they seldom expected marriage to monopolise their affections or their sexuality. The South Indian climate permits clothing to be reduced to the minimum and the temperature encourages ardour. In this situation, these young men were obviously unlikely to forget that everybody has a body; it was natural for them to express affection physically, quite regardless of gender.
As soon as I became familiar with this way of thinking, I embraced it as being far more congenial to my own nature than the ideas (if you could call them that) I had been brought up on.
It was ironic that, back in Britain, although the post-1967 male was at last permitted to have legal sex with a consenting adult male in private, he was at the same time being more and more polarised. This was exactly the opposite of what Kinsey had advocated. His research had led him to adopt something very like the stance I encountered in India. This is how Kinsey had expressed his rejection of the idea of:
two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white ... Nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behaviour the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.
As is now well known, Kinsey had devised a sexual orientation grid to indicate the preferences of the people he interviewed or questioned. It was as follows:
O - exclusively heterosexual behaviour
1 - largely heterosexual with incidental homosexual behaviour
2 - largely heterosexual, but more than incidental homosexual behaviour
3 - equal amounts of heterosexual and homosexual behaviour
4 - largely homosexual, but more than incidental heterosexual behaviour
5 - largely homosexual with incidental heterosexual behaviour
6 - exclusively homosexual behaviour
An interesting fact about this list is, although it ends at 6, it is actually a 7-point scale. It thus matches the colours of the spectrum, which could be listed in a similar scale:
Another, somewhat mind-blowing fact about light, is that whilst it appears to be quite colourless, it can actually be broken up to reveal all the colours of the rainbow. It begins to look as if human sexuality is very much like light in this respect. [<>Recent studies of animal sexuality suggest humans are by no means alone in this. See Bruce Baghemi, Biological Exuberance: animal homosexuality and natural diversity and the websites, Marmor, J. and Denniston, R.H., Homosexuality/Bisexuality in the Animal Kingdom and also the website titled A Paradox of Evolution].
Although Kinsey and his successors had found almost half of their sample falling towards the centre of the band spanning the extremes of exclusive homo- or hetero- sexuality, it became increasingly fashionable to admit the existence of a 'gay' sub-culture, which was eventually legally sanctioned, but to regard all males outside that sub-group as 'straight', i.e. exclusively heterosexual. This gave the 'straight' male the comforting but unfounded assurance of being heavily in the majority.
This was almost as much at odds with the known facts about male sexuality as the pre-1967 situation, when, in Britain, male homosexuality had been outlawed, both in the courts and in society. Now, homosexuality was admitted to exist and legally tolerated (within strict limits -even now men could be arrested for soliciting, even in a gay club, or for kissing in public. They would be very brave even to walk around holding hands - which is what Indian males do as unselfconsciously as they shave), but was held only to affect this small sub-group of unmarried and usually visible 'gays'.
This flagrantly disregarded Kinsey's findings that, whilst only 4% of his sample seemed to be exclusively homosexual, 46% admitted to having had some homosexual experience. The actual findings in 1948 [Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male by Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B. and Martin, C.E.] were that by the time they reached middle age, about 46% of all males had some sort of overt erotic experience with members of their own sex. This accounted for every second man in America. 37% of all males had at least one homosexual experience to the point of orgasm between adolescence and old age. This applied to nearly two males out of every five. 4% of all males admitted to being exclusively homosexual in their behaviour throughout their lives.
It was no surprise when Kinsey found the majority of men (and women) claiming to be predominantly heterosexual, but the number claiming to be predominantly homosexual was larger than expected. However, the really big surprise was, in spite of all the conditioning in a society which had only legally condoned exclusive heterosexuality, nearly half of the men he questioned had engaged in same-sex activity. It is an open question how many of the remaining 50% would have wanted to get homosexually involved had they been reared in a less homophobic ethos.
Later research by Blumstein and Schwartz throws important light on this question. Talking of the relative ease or unease with which men and women are able to accept homosexual activity into their lives, they observed:
Women often felt that such activities were a natural extension of female affectionate behavior and did not have implications for their sexuality. Men, on the other hand, were much more preoccupied with what the experience meant for their masculinity, sometimes fearing that they might never again be able to respond erotically to a woman. Some men insulated themselves from the homosexual implications of homosexual behavior by exclusively engaging in either impersonal sex ... or in homosexual acts where they took what they considered to be the masculine role [<>Philip W. Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, Bisexuality: Some Social Psychological Issues, 1977, quoted from Merl Storr, Bisexuality: a critical reader, Routledge, 1999, p.73]
Returning to Kinsey's findings, it was less surprising to learn only a small minority of his interviewees placed themselves around the centre [point 3] on Kinsey's orientation grid since these were the rare individuals who could respond with equal enthusiasm to either gender (the people designated ambisexual by Masters and Johnson [<>in Masters, W. and Johnson, V, Human Sexual Response, 1966. There is a tendency in some more recent writing (as, for instance, in Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, Bisexuality: Some Social Psychological Issues, Blackwell, 1977) to want to use the term 'ambisexuality' as a substitute for 'bisexuality' because it sounds less rigid, more fluid, closer to most people's experience, but this obscures the difference which Masters and Johnson wished to highlight between those who live bisexually whilst having a gender preference and those much rarer birds (the 'ambisexuals') who have no such preference]
The vital fact, almost totally obscured by the social polarising of 'straights' and 'gays', is that the majority of those who are predominantly one way or the other are also significantly aware, either intermittently or fairly continuously, of a compensating pull in the opposite direction. The following quotation from the website of the Robert Koch Institut [now re-named the Magnus Hirschfield Archive for Sexology] goes a long way towards clearing the confusions inherent in our present use of terms:
- the term heterosexual may be used to describe someone who has a clear erotic preference for partners of the other sex (categories 0-2 on Kinsey's rating scale.
- the term homosexual may be used to describe someone who has a clear erotic preference for partners of the same sex (categories 4-6 on Kinsey's rating scale
- the term bisexual (or ambisexual) may be used to describe someone who is erotically attracted to both sexes (categories 1-5 on Kinsey's rating scale).
It will be observed that the third of these definitions partly overlaps with each of the other two. That is to say, the classification 'bisexual' includes some 'heterosexuals' (those in categories 1 and 2) as well as some 'homosexuals' (those in categories 4 and 5). This inconsistency is unavoidable unless one wants to call only those persons bisexual whose erotic interest is evenly divided between the two sexes (category 3). However, such a usage has never been widely accepted. We therefore have to live with the fact that certain persons may be referred to as 'heterosexual' (or 'homosexual') in one context, and as 'bisexual' in another.
My only quarrel with the above terminology is already very familiar: the term ambisexuality is at one point again regarded as a synonym for bisexuality, whereas it is much more usefully employed to denote only the small minority of bisexually active people who are unaware of any gender preference (those who would register '3' on the Kinsey scale). Note, by the way, the excellent Robert Koch site, now re-named, is located at: http://www.sexology.cjb.net
What is even more confusing is, because of social pressure to conform, a man's visible sexual lifestyle may not even reflect his dominant sex drive. The author, Bruce Chatwin, is a good recent example. Until he died of Aids in 1989, he was thought to be a respectably 'straight', married man. In his novel, On the Black Mountain, although the central characters, male twins, share the same bed throughout their lives, it is explicitly denied, in spite of the uncanny attachment of the one to and for the other, there is anything sexual about their intimacy.
Only after he died did it become widely known that Chatwin himself had been driven, obsessively at times, by a powerful homosexual drive. He never wrote about this and hated to talk about it even to friends.
Anybody who doubts the extent to which the same is true of other married men who appear to be respectably straight should consult the Internet. For the first time in history it is possible for men to seek their sexual partners or indulge their fantasies in strict privacy, yet with access to the whole wide world. I would suggest the sceptical surfer starts with a site like 'Men on the Net', then clicks on 'male nudes' in the left-hand column. From there he can access a fair sprinkling of the vast and rapidly growing number of websites slanted towards the 'gay' market. If the investigator then refers to some of the erotic fiction on offer at this and other sites, he will discover that married men turn up with unfailing regularity in 'gay' anecdotes and stories.
John Barrington, himself a happily married Englishman, discovered precisely the same phenomenon in real life. He published his own findings in a survey entitled Sexual Alternatives for Men in 1981 [<>Barrington notes, especially on pp.131-135, that married men crop up so regularly in his survey, often as the preferred partners of exclusively 'gay' men, that a society may not "be very far ahead... when bisexuality will be accepted as a normal sexual expression of a man's sexual nature...and...a man's homosexual contacts outside his marriage will be more easily socially and morally tolerated ... than his sexual contacts with women. Women are, in fact and in general, more adaptable to a male 'rival' than they are to another female who ensnares a husband: men, in general, are not considered a 'threat' to a marriage by a wife..." p.133]
If the majority of men are predominantly heterosexual and tend to suppress their less clamant homosexuality, there are also many men whose drive is predominantly homosexual, and who tend to suppress their relatively weak heterosexuality.
Speaking for myself: I went through adolescence in the late 1940s when all the books I consulted told me, if I was aware of a powerful drive in the homosexual direction (which I undoubtedly was), I should give up any hope of ever getting married. If I was rash enough to give it a go, it would be a disaster, doing untold harm to my partner and myself [<>I read, for instance, Kenneth Walker's Physiology of Sex, Penguin, 1940, when I was fifteen and was already aware of strong homosexual desires. Walker told me, although some of the greatest names on the scroll of artistic fame belong to those who were homosexual p.128, marriage is, of course, out of the question, even when the patient is bisexual, for although an invert may show a capacity for heterosexual union, his dominant desire is for a member of his own sex. p.133. Walker is here holding the frequently-held but mistaken view that a successful sexual relationship can only be sustained if it accords with the dominant sexual drive of each party]
My mentors were telling me I should suffer in silence, since what I really wanted was considered by my society to be criminal and despicable - which struck me as highly ironic in view of this same society's readiness to send young men off to war, to maim and slaughter other men or be maimed or slaughtered themselves.
However, apart from confiding in one or two close friends, I did suffer in silence.
Had it not been for the intense frustration felt on the homosexual front, especially in the relaxed male-male ethos in India from which I felt excluded, coupled with the fact I had met a truly wonderful young lady on the boat taking me to India, I might never have married. As it was, Margaret and I took the plunge in 1957, in spite of the taboos which Kenneth Walker and other 'experts' had instilled into me. I had told Margaret before we got engaged about my homosexuality and about the taboos on marriage I had read, but she was willing to take the risk.
Our marriage has been a lot happier than many others we know about and has yielded us two daughters and, so far, three grandsons and one granddaughter.
My sex drive has not been the slightest bit affected by over fifty years of marital sex. Although the huge bulk of my actual sex for four decades has been heterosexual and tremendously fulfilling, my basic sex drive has remained as stubbornly homosexual as it was before we got married. If anything, I was more aware of it after marriage than before because, being now regularly sexually active, I felt much less bottled up, even with regard to other men. As a married man I was able to meet them and sometimes build relationships with them far more easily than during my bachelor days.
I had told Margaret before our wedding that, if sex worked out well within the marriage (as it did), I expected the homosexual side of me to fall completely into the background. It came as something of a surprise to discover this did not happen. On the contrary, I began to feel more and more insistently I needed to complement my heterosexual life with at least one homosexual relationship. It was some ten years before this need found anything approaching satisfaction but, little by little, it has issued in my developing a fully rounded bisexual lifestyle, within which the marriage remains central.
The question before us is: are people really either gay or straight?
In my late teens, I would have described myself, on the strength of the sexual urges I was getting, as 'exclusively gay'.
In 1957, I would have regarded myself as 'a prospective convert to straightness'.
Between then and somewhere around 1977, I would have regarded myself as a somewhat uncertain and often frustrated 'bisexual'.
Since 1977, and increasingly over the past decades, I have come to accept that, for me at least, and for reasons which will largely emerge in subsequent chapters, a bisexual lifestyle is the only one I could ever regard as completely fulfilling, either sexually or emotionally.
This of course raises the question: how far is my own experience typical, especially for men who have grown up more recently in a very different sexual and social ethos?
This question is unanswerable in the abstract and you, the reader, are the only person who can answer it as regards yourself.
In general terms, I am clearly not representative of the majority of males because, as I have repeatedly said, I have been aware since my mid-teens of a dominant sex drive which is 'gay', not 'straight'. Allowing for this difference, I have reason to believe the need I felt to counterbalance my dominant drive with its opposite is far more widespread than is often thought.
On the heterosexual side, biology has ensured, however 'gay' we may feel ourselves to be, there is almost always the yen for parenthood lurking in the shadows and, to aid and abet this yen, the lure of organs which are purpose-built for each other.
On the homosexual side, there is the fact that most males begin their sex lives by wanking. In the process, they usually discover in their own pricks an organ which can yield intense pleasure in itself, quite apart from the pleasure it may yield when interacting with a cunt. It would be extraordinary if this discovery of the intrinsic (as opposed to the instrumental) value of their own pricks did not lead to a growing interest in and desire to interact with the pricks of others. Insofar as it does not lead in this direction, this is far more likely to be because of social conditioning and a fear of becoming 'queer' than because there is no drive in this direction.
At the emotional and relational level, there is no doubt at all most men feel a deep need for male friends in whom they can confide over a pint at the pub and with whom they can share or contrast their hobbies and enthusiasms, participate in sports, and perhaps, especially in some of the now almost defunct manufacturing industries, team up at work.
All of this is regarded as perfectly 'normal'. What is not generally recognised, because powerful inhibitors suppress it, is that sex could usually enhance these male-male friendships. If sex can bring a man and a woman more intimately together than anything else, why should the same not be true when two men, or two women, have grown to love each other? Sex does not necessarily do this, of course; but sex undeniably can do this, and do it in a way which is uniquely mutual
The answer to the question before us therefore has to be: no, people are not really either gay or straight. Most people are predominantly either gay or straight but, in varying degrees, significantly in need of sexual encounters and relationships which counterbalance their dominant drive.
3: DOESN'T ANY KIND OF PROMISCUITY DESTABILISE A RELATIONSHIP?
Before going any further it is obviously necessary to deal with this question since, if we decide the answer is 'yes', there can be no possibility of a bisexual lifestyle being able to promote stable relationships.
A compromise solution might be to say two stable relationships might co-exist, one homosexual and the other heterosexual, but anything beyond that would be destabilising. Even this might seem to some people to be going too far.
The question arises because of the monogamous tradition which has governed the Judaeo-Christian sexual ethos for centuries. Islamic practice has allowed for polygamy, as has the custom in many other cultures in various parts of the world. Even within Christendom, there have been dissident groups like the Mormons who have sanctioned polygamy.
The attitude towards same-sex relationships has also been decidedly hostile in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, often occasioning savage penalties, even execution. This again is in sharp contrast to what obtains in many other cultures in other parts of the world.
To-day there are countless people who still claim some measure of allegiance to the Jewish or Christian traditions but who are vehemently opposed to the traditional sexual taboos associated with these religions. Still more people who live within the borders of traditionally Judaeo-Christian countries, even though they are not immigrants from other areas, have totally dissociated themselves from these religions and now regard themselves as secular agnostics or humanists.
Even these people may be affected more than they realise by ideas which have no sanction other than in the faith they have theoretically abandoned.
The greatest gain of the monogamous tradition has been the value it has attached to a sexual relationship between a man and a woman and to the family unit which usually results from such a relationship.
The biggest defect of it is its impossible rigidity. In trying to coerce everybody into treading the same path - chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage - it has engendered the sins, and sometimes crimes, of 'self-abuse', 'fornication', 'adultery', 'sodomy', etc. In order to avoid the stigma of having committed these sins (or crimes), the tradition has fostered endless furtiveness and hypocrisy as well as a great deal of pain and unhappiness on the part of people who have toed the line at the cost of being trapped in a loveless relationship or been debarred from the one relationship their hearts have yearned for.
It is virtually certain any tradition which has sustained a culture for centuries will have elements within it of lasting value. It is equally certain, since this tradition inevitably had its roots in a pre-scientific age, when little if anything was known about traditions prevailing in other parts of the world, still less about the detailed workings of the human mind and body, it is bound at times to seem ignorant, naive and chauvinistic by modern standards, claiming for itself an authority and a validity which it can no longer command.
At the heart of the battle with tradition within the Judaeo-Christian world is the modern perception of the function of sex. The received biblical view of the matter is God created male and female in order to beget children: whom God hath joined, let no man put asunder.
We now know that only a very little sex will suffice to keep the planet populated, yet human beings have been endowed with a stronger and much less reproductively regulated sex drive than almost any other animal; it makes no sense, knowing what we now do, to treat sex as if its only function were reproductive.
Some of those who have rebelled against the tradition have gone to the other extreme and tried to dissociate sex entirely from procreation. It is not difficult to find sex manuals in which children are not even mentioned. Relationships too can sometimes be discounted or ignored, conveying the idea that a succession of 'one-night stands' with ever-changing partners, sometimes partners of both genders, is the best bet for maximising pleasure. Such rebels have given 'promiscuity' a bad name, especially when their lifestyles have become associated with dire STDs like AIDS.
For rebels like these, the question before us will not even arise since such people are not interested in relationships, stable or otherwise. Their motto would be: all you need is sex. They would have no time for a book like this or interest in the questions and issues it raises. Since you are still reading, it seems safe to assume that you are not of their number, so we can proceed.
The word 'promiscuity' needs careful definition. My dictionary defines "promiscuous sexual relations" as those which are "unrestricted by marriage or cohabitation". On this definition, any sex apart from what happens within a marriage or partnership is promiscuous.
If this definition is accepted and if such promiscuity is held to be culpable, then any kind of defection from sex with one's recognised partner is regarded as 'cheating' and liable to cause a breakdown of the partnership.
Notice how this definition of 'promiscuity' inherits the rigidity of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It puts all kinds of extra-marital (or equivalent) sex in the same category, regardless of whether or not it happens with the partner's knowledge and consent, whether it consists of a haphazard series of couplings unprotected by contraceptives on the one hand, or carefully regulated, safety-conscious acts, many of which are in the context of a continuing relationship, on the other.
It is now generally recognised that sex performs a variety of functions but not necessarily all at the same time. It can be a source of solitary pleasure, a means of achieving the variety which is the 'spice of life', a way of deepening and perfecting a relationship, a path to parenthood, a refreshing way of revelling in one’s animality, a form of relaxation, an antidote to stress - and doubtless many other things.
At this point it may be helpful to appeal to personal experience. What has worked so well for me will not work for everybody of course. No two people are exactly alike and this applies as much to their sexuality as to any other aspect of their personality. Apart from intrinsic differences between people, there are also the widely varying sets of circumstances and influences which have helped to shape them. For this reason, after a brief biographical excursion, I shall return to a more generalised look at the question, but against that personal background.
My own experience suggests it pays to have a clear sense of priorities. Since my marriage, I have tried to avoid any kind of sexual involvement which would threaten this central relationship. Because it is both a cohabiting and co-parenting relationship, it is unique. I know there are people who seem to live quite happily in communes or in various kinds of polygamous household but the nuclear kind of relationship my wife and I enjoy works so well for us I would not want to tinker with it.
Another important factor giving our marriage a unique place in my life is the fact that it excludes of sex with other women. This presents no problems as my dominant drive is homosexual. When I want sexual relationships or episodes outside the marriage, I want them to be with a man, not a woman. I have had other opportunities with the fair sex from time to time but resisting them has not been a matter of morality or even mainly of sex drive but primarily of a sense that involvement with another woman would detract from, perhaps even destroy, the marriage relationship. I would hate that to happen.
When I decided I could no longer live contentedly on an exclusively heterosexual diet, my original hope was I would discover another married man with similarly bisexual inclinations with whom I could form a sexual friendship alongside the marriage. My search for such a friend began in India and, during my later years there, met with some success. Amongst a number of exciting encounters I was able to establish one or two more enduring friendships, although none of these, alas, survived after we, as a family, returned to Britain in 1966.
The next six years were spent in England, mainly lecturing in a College of Education. The search continued, but bore no lasting fruit.
In 1972, I was appointed to a lectureship in a New Zealand University. Again the search continued, with the result, during the last three years of my stay there, I had a gay friend with whom I was able to spend a few hours regularly each week. He was quite content to give me a slot in his life alongside his other friendships and occasional casual encounters. He never once suggested that I should leave my wife because he was happily cohabiting with another, older man. This was not a sexual relationship.
In 1983, our family again returned to Britain (except for one daughter, who eventually settled down with her partner in Auckland and gave birth to a daughter and a son). My search began again and, perhaps mainly because this time I had no intention of moving to yet another continent, I found what I was looking for.
I have enjoyed a most satisfying sexual friendship for well over twenty years. I met 'A' when he was only twenty; he is now in his mid forties. He is unmarried, but not by choice. Although all his sex so far has been either solitary or homosexual, his dominant drive is, curiously enough, heterosexual. His problem is, owing to an accident in his early childhood, he can appear 'sort of spastic' (as one of his former schoolmates described him to me). He is actually very intelligent and, within his limitations, very competent, but unfortunately he lacks the kind of social graces which would make him attractive to most women. Their loss has been my gain, though I wish for his sake it could have been otherwise; he is a gem of a guy.
About fifteen years after I met 'A', I formed another close friendship ’M’. Whilst ‘A’ lives abut 50 miles SW of our home, ‘M’ lives about 50 miles away in the opposite direction. ‘A’ had no car so I usually drove over to his place about once a month. ‘M’ does drive so he used to come over to our place about once a month. On two occasions the three of us were able to get together on neutral territory for memorable threesomes. Age-wise, ‘M’ was about mid-way between ‘A’ and myself. .
'A' and I first met in a swimming pool. It was he who approached me, not I him. In view of the big age-gap, I found this reassuring. My friendship with ‘M’ began on a naturist beach. Like 'A' he was unmarried but, also like 'A', he found women more sexually attractive than I did.
Climate is, in my experience, an important factor in liberating the libido. When the weather is wet and chill, one has little incentive to stray outside the home and the central relationship which it enshrines. When the sun shines brightly, the scene changes dramatically. It becomes a positive joy to shed most or all of one's clothes, becoming much more relaxed and expansive in the process. It is the ideal state in which to extend the range of one's friendships.
In this regard, I have been extremely fortunate. More than a decade in India got me acclimatised to this much more outgoing sexual wavelength. In New Zealand, I discovered a beach which was largely frequented by gay and bisexual men, only a few miles from where we lived. The dunes and woodland behind this beach made an ideal setting for getting to know each other, sexually as well as in other ways. It was here I met 'O', with whom I formed the sexual friendship lasting over three years, as well as a number of other less frequently encountered friends.
Since returning to Britain, Margaret and I have, for nearly a decade now, gone for two weeks every March to a naturist timeshare on the Costa del Sol where again the climate and the setting encourage sexual expansiveness. The same kind of thing is true for a growing number of Britons these days and has had a good deal to do with our rapidly changing attitudes to matters sexual and erotic.
There are two other things of some importance which my personal sexual journey has taught me.
The first is something I learned during the years before I had found friends I could count on seeing at reasonably regular intervals. Although these years were full of frustration, they did teach me to value even a relatively casual encounter or a very spasmodic friendship. As I have said, my original hope was to find one stable male friend, preferably a married but bisexually-inclined man like myself, whose wife would know what was going on (at least in general terms) and who would live close enough for us to meet regularly and form a rounded and deepening sex-based relationship.
I never quite found what I had hoped for, but I count myself incredibly lucky to have found 'A' and, more recently, ‘M‘. However, in the process of searching for someone like them, I discovered, on the male front, variety certainly is the spice of life: not a substantial meal, certainly, and nowhere near even a main course but, provided the relationships which one can really feed on are firmly in place, a most welcome garnish to the meal, making the whole more appetising and more digestible.
This has not, of course, been true of all the sexual encounters I have had. Some of them have been non-events, though almost none of them has been really revolting. Most of them have generated a surprising degree of tenderness and closeness even though they may have been one-off affairs with little or no chance of there ever being a sequel.
Surprisingly enough, it is precisely under these circumstances it can be easiest to give oneself wholeheartedly to another person. Neither of you knows the first thing about the other, so each of you has everything to learn, sexually as in other ways. I still have very vivid memories of men I met just once, maybe many years ago - how their bodies looked and felt, how they made love, things they told me about other relationships of theirs, and so on. I can think of very few men with whom I have been non-sexually involved of whom this is true.
The second thing I learned is merely being able to see desirable guys naked can be highly satisfying, both erotically and aesthetically (provided one shares Michelangelo-and-company's devotion to the male form). You can feel quite relaxed when you stand on the fringe of a group who are naked in a non-sexual context because you are spared the frustration of wanting to do more than view, knowing there is no way you can!
When I was in New Zealand, I started swimming regularly, a habit I kept up until a few years ago. I went to a private pool which was open to the public between certain hours, then used by squads of youngsters who were training to compete in the Commonwealth or even the Olympic Games. I discovered, if I went straight from work to the public session which finished at five in the evening, and if I got into the changing room at ten to five, I could see a whole row of young fellows, aged from around twelve to the late teens, stark naked.
I did this so regularly the lads got to know me as well as I them. I think they rapidly sensed how much I appreciated their beauty and their sexiness and they were unbelievably generous in letting me view what they had to offer. The 'changing room' was simply an enclosed corridor, running the length of the pool, 'ladies' to the left and 'gents' on the right.
At ten to five, I could look backwards and forwards along this line of gorgeous lads in varying states of undress, most of them dawdling for minutes together in the nude as they talked randily with their pals, turning from side to side as they did so to give me the fullest possible picture. There was one fellow called Bruce who had one of the most graceful cocks I have seen. It never seemed to shrivel or wilt but always seemed to hang, long and shapely, pushed forward by the fullness of his balls. There was another boy, one of the youngest, whose cock was thicker and more imposing in all its dimensions than that of any of the older swimmers.
It was not just their cocks, of course. These were lads in the bloom of youth and at a peak of physical fitness. There was no superfluous fat but an ocean of taut, smooth skin over compact bellies and backs, slim waists, finely muscled thighs.
Regarding their cocks, I was also made to realise, although I never saw one of them erect, they could, provided they had the requisite size and grace, be at least as sexy as pricks. This has been confirmed by my viewing of men on the Net. Some of my favourites are not displaying rampant pricks, just lovely meaty cocks which thrill by what they promise.
Although just viewing naked guys who are sexy and attractive can get frustrating if there are no male bodies you can actually tangle with at a given period, it does have the great merit of being endlessly sustainable. There are times when one feels it would be wonderful to be able to have sex with (almost) everybody on the planet. The reality, alas, is that satisfying sex can only happen with a relative handful of people.
Viewing is another matter. Whether in the flesh or on a screen or in a photograph, there literally is endless scope these days for viewing naked guys from every conceivable age, race and type. The computer age and our changed attitudes to eroticism have at last made this possible, and I find it very satisfying. It largely offsets the frustration of not being able to view in all their glory the sometimes breathtaking beauties one has to pass, fully clothed, in the street.
It is time to return to the question: doesn't any kind of promiscuity destabilise a relationship?
The short answer is: no
A longer answer would begin with misgivings about the word 'promiscuity'. Because of its history within the monogamous tradition, it already seems to imply something illicit, something which should not be happening. I therefore propose to rephrase the question to bring it into line with modern thinking and research about sex. The question then becomes: does sex have to be confined to one relationship if that relationship is to prosper?
If the answer were to be 'yes', then obviously a bisexual lifestyle would be impossible unless one were to say, 'yes, all my relational sex is in the context of the cohabiting relationship; none of my other sex is relational'.
I for one would never want to say this. I would certainly concede that some of my extra-marital sex is, like my occasional wanking, non-relational. But most of it isn't. I have had sex with too many guys for it all to have been relational in any meaningful sense, but, though I would not dream of disparaging this kind of sex, I know the homosexual side of me could never happily survive on just this diet. Without a shadow of a doubt, the chief value of my male-male sex has been that the core part of it has been relational.
So far from destabilising the cohabiting relationship, my male-male sexual friendships, especially the ones with 'A' and ‘M‘, have greatly enriched it. I will try to identify some of the ways in which this has happened:-
Completeness: without these male-male friendships, I should have been attempting to live a lie, trying to stifle a side of myself which is an intrinsic part of me, not something which can be thrown off at will. Because I have been able to foster these friendships, I have been able to grow to be a whole person instead of the stunted, warped half-person I would otherwise have been; this must surely have made me a much more satisfying person to live with inside the marriage than could otherwise have been the case.
Honesty: I have been spared the deception of pretending my male-male sex is just a matter of physical release whilst my heterosexual life is fully rounded, catering for emotion and the full gamut of personality. I have been free to love a man, indeed more than one man, as deeply and as tenderly as I love my wife even though I have not been free to live with him or to co-parent with him.
Integrity: because sex with a man (unless it involves anal penetration) is quite different from sex with a woman, it does not invite invidious comparisons. The homosexual sex complements the other; it does not compete with it. Because my wife knows I have these male friends (without knowing, or wanting to know, precisely what goes on between us) and because my male friends know I am happily married and have not the slightest intention of 'moving out', there has never been any suggestion of deception or furtiveness or accusations of 'cheating' or infidelity. Both our daughters have also known about my bisexual lifestyle since their early teens.
Variety: whilst our home has been a richly prized physical and relational base for both of us, it has never felt like a prison or a trap. We have both felt free to go off and do our own thing from time to time, each informing the other of expected times of departure and return - and honouring those times as far as possible! We have both benefited by this freedom. When one partner in a relationship wants and needs more sex than the other, our lifestyle provides an ideal solution, taking the strain off the less eager partner and saving the other one from an ugly mood of frustration and resentment.
Haven: particularly when we were in New Zealand, we knew a number of gay men who, even though I may not have been sexually involved with them, obviously greatly enjoyed coming round for a meal and a chat and being regarded as family friends without being required to dissemble about their gayness.
Openness: where there is a bisexual lifestyle on the part of at least one of the partners, a marriage cannot be a closed circuit but must always retain a certain openness which acts as an antidote to jealousy or possessiveness. This implies that both partners, whether both live bisexually or not, need to be outgoing - which will be easier if both feel secure in the knowledge that their own little kingdom is inviolable.
Polyamory: this is a word which seems to have been coined in the States and is useful to indicate an ethos in which more than one love is allowed. Just as most parents are capable of loving all their children, each of them calling forth a bond of love and affection which is not weaker or stronger than what is felt for the others, just different, so bisexual living and loving calls forth unique but multiple bonds of love and affection which are perfectly sustainable alongside each other. It must be said this is more easily realisable if one's extra-marital (or 'extra-cohabitant') sexual involvements are with partners of one's own gender. In the case of couples cohabiting homosexually, the reverse would obviously apply.
Health: because this is a lifestyle which permits sex with both genders yet is carefully controlled and never degenerates into a free-for-all, it is possible to keep the sex virtually as safe as it would be if confined to just the one partner.
I am aware that what I am writing will seem strange to many men, even though they may be bisexually inclined. There will be those who, like myself, have a predominantly homosexual drive but who cohabit with a male lover. Their need will be to balance that relationship with at least one heterosexual friendship. There will be those who, like myself, cohabit with a female lover, but whose dominant drive, unlike mine, is heterosexual. They may only have become aware of the homosexual side of themselves because a man they found attractive made advances toward them. Having discovered it, they don't want to lose it.
There will be those who, either because of the type of work they do or from personal inclination, prefer to live alone but enjoy having partners of both genders, either on a casual or a relational basis - or a mixture of both. There will be those who are like myself both as regards their female cohabitant and their predominantly homosexual drive but whose homosexual need is of a quite different type from mine. More will be said about this last group in the following chapter.
What all these groups have in common is an awareness of bisexual need; beyond that, there are wide differences. It is really up to each individual to try to discover, as precisely as possible, what kind of combination of sexual acts and relationships brings the greatest satisfaction to them and their partners. There is a wide range of possible sexual lifestyles which work extremely well just so long as the people involved in them feel at home in them.
Obviously, I can only vouch for the lifestyle which I have myself tried and tested over a long period and found to work admirably. Many of the men with whom I have been sexually involved over this period are married like myself and, with minor variations here and there, have opted for a similar lifestyle to my own. On the other hand, I have had some very frank encounters and conversations with men who are very different from myself in almost every way except for a mutual desire to enjoy sex over the widest possible spectrum whilst, at the same time, staying healthy and fostering stable and loving relationships. The combination of variety with health is probably what means most to most people.
4: IS MALE HOMOSEXUALITY ALWAYS ANAL?
For those with any first-hand experience of male homosexuality, this will seem an unbelievably naive question. It is, nevertheless, an absolutely crucial question at a time when many gay activists have tried to establish the lie that anal sex is in fact the defining feature of homosexual sex.
In point of fact, anal sex is not homosexual at all. Both genders are endowed with an anus and a male can penetrate the anus of either gender. How then could anal sex possibly be regarded as the definitive homosexual act?
When Edward Carpenter outlined the history of scientific studies of sexuality during the former century and a half, he noted one of the great pioneers of this new science made the following observation after carefully studying a range of predominantly homosexual men:
It is true that Krafft-Ebing insists on the generally strong sexual equipment of this class of persons (among men), but he hastens to say that their emotional love is also "enthusiastic and exalted," [Note: "Psychopathia Sexualis," 7th ed., p. 227.] and that, while bodily congress is desired, the special act with which they are vulgarly credited is in most cases repugnant to them (Note: Ibid, pp. 229 and 258)[<>Edward Carpenter, The Intermediate Sex, 1908, pp.57f]
When gay men practise anal sex, they do so, not because they are homosexual but because they are denied or deny themselves heterosexual sex, for anal sex is an obviously quasi-heterosexual act in which one of the partners performs the typical male role and the other the typical female role. Even predominantly heterosexual men who are deprived of women for some reason - prisoners, sailors, workers on all-male sites remote from women, etc. - may well resort to anal sex for the time being because it provides them with the closest experience to the one which is not currently available to them. In such cases, the pseudo-woman is either being coerced or has a natural inclination for this role or has agreed to act this way so long as roles can be reversed afterwards.
Clearly, a definitively homosexual act, whether we are talking about gay or lesbian sex, has to be one which can only happen between persons of the same gender, which is the same as saying persons with the same genital organs. As we have seen, anal sex can never fulfil this definition, whilst any interchange between two pricks or two clits or two sets of breasts always can.
An interesting implication of this basic fact is that oral sex between persons of the same gender is a very similar experience for the person on the receiving end regardless of the gender of the person whose mouth is engaged. This is certainly not the case for the other person since a man who sucks a prick is in no doubt he is not licking a clit! From a purely physical point of view, only the person whose mouth is engaged is having a homosexual experience, which explains why some men who are overwhelmingly heterosexual may still be very happy to receive the oral attentions of another man.
Oral sex does, however, become a mutually homosexual experience when a same-sex couple is 'sixty-nine-ing' since, in this position, both persons are simultaneously active and passive. Again, this applies to both gay and lesbian sex.
Much the same applies when hands are involved. A man being manhandled is getting much the same experience as a man being woman-handled, but the handler is getting either a homosexual or a heterosexual experience depending on what is being handled. Only when persons of the same gender are each using their hands simultaneously, as in mutual wanking, can they be said to be having a mutually homosexual experience.
All of this applies purely at the physical level. From an emotional or relational viewpoint, it might matter a lot to a man that he is being sucked or handled by another man rather than by a woman, even though the physical sensations might be almost identical. We see this very clearly when it comes to kissing. There are times when, if you close your eyes, you could be kissing either a man or a woman. For the moment, there is nothing, not even stubble on chin or cheek, to identify the partner's gender. But the gender of the partner might still be of great emotional importance to both participants.
Anal sex introduces a new factor however. If a woman has anal sex, she is being penetrated by the back door as it were, but she is still having the typically female experience of being penetrated. It is quite otherwise when a man becomes the passive partner in anal sex; he ceases to be the penetrator and becomes instead the penetrated. In other words he is having neither a homosexual nor a heterosexual but a transsexual experience.
It is vitally important this little-recognised fact be fully registered because only so can a very widespread confusion about male homosexuality be dissipated.
What it amounts to is there are two main types of homosexual experience, not just one. But this is only true for homosexual men, not for women. A man can be both a penetrator and a penetratee, whilst a woman can only be a penetratee. True, in lesbian sex, one partner can penetrate the other by strapping on a dildo but she cannot have the physical sensation of being the penetrator because she lacks the organ which could register this sensation. A man experiencing anal penetration, on the other hand, can and does have the physical sensation of being penetrated. How closely this resembles the female sensation of vaginal penetration, only a woman who has experienced both anal and vaginal penetration could say - but even then she cannot know how big a difference the stimulation of the prostate gland makes to the male‘s experience of being penetrated anally.
That there should be so much confusion about all this is not in the least surprising since, at this point, the situation does become quite complex: all we can hope to do is clarify the complexities.
The primary homosexual drive, whether in men or women, is directed towards same-sex genitals since this is the only kind of sex which can only happen between people of the same gender. This urge is felt very widely, though in varying degrees. It stems basically from preoccupation with one's own organs, especially around the time of puberty, when wanking usually becomes an imperative need. It is the natural next step to graduate to other similar organs [<>Wilhelm Stekel, who wrote Onanie und Homosexualität (Masturbation and Homosexuality) in 1920, part of which was translated in 1922 with the title Bi-Sexual Love, saw very clearly the connection, later corroborated by Kinsey's research, between wanking, homosexuality, then bisexuality, as a natural progression].
Unless there is some strong inhibiting factor, this second phase naturally progresses to mutual wanking with friends. In most cases, this in turn leads on to a preoccupation with organs of the opposite gender and to the first experiments with heterosexual sex.
It is an amusing irony that, even in the homophobic ethos in which most Western lads are reared, the fear of the possible dire consequences of precocious heterosexual involvement can actually encourage an early homo-erotic phase, as the following quotation demonstrates:
Same-sex behavior is quite common in childhood and is not at all unusual in adolescence. Indeed, in the years before puberty people in our culture may have more sexual contact with members of their own than with those of the other sex. During this period, they are often actively discouraged from playing heterosexual games while their homosexual activity attracts little or no attention. It is only later the situation reverses itself. Once they have reached their teens, boys and girls are expected to develop exclusively heterosexual interests, and any homosexual exploration is strongly condemned. Nevertheless, many individuals continue to have homosexual contact well into their old age. For some of them, these contacts represent nothing more than isolated incidents in an otherwise predominantly heterosexual life. For others, they become a frequent, if sporadic, experience, and for still others they are the preferred or even the only form of sexual expression... [<>from the Archiv für Sexualwissenschaft [Courses in Sexology] website of the Robert Koch Institut. As previously mentioned, this is now the Magnus Hirschfield Archive for Sexology ].
Even when this does not happen, it is by no means impossible for the process to happen in reverse. A person with a very strong heterosexual drive may initially pay scant attention to his or her own organs or to other organs of the same gender and become precociously preoccupied with those of the opposite gender. Even so, some experience or circumstance, or simply the ticking of an inner clock, may lead, at a later stage, to a realisation of the erotic potential of his or her own organs per se and therefore of other similar organs.
For most males, the progression is of the first type: preoccupation with one's own organs > fascination with other similar organs > desire for organs of opposite gender. This is the most common order of progression because young boys in general prefer playing with boys than with girls not least because the very visible cock is a lot more interesting than the rather dull slit girls have. It usually takes time, often until way past puberty, for that slit to take on a new, seductive significance.
If a person’s innate drive is predominantly homosexual, the process may stop, at least for the time being (as in my own case) at the second stage, i.e. preoccupation with same-sex organs.
If a person is predominantly heterosexual, there will be a tendency for the third stage, i.e. preoccupation with opposite-gender organs, to supersede the others entirely, at least for a time.
In both cases, there is usually a balancing bisexual factor which ensures, sooner or later, the neglected or less dominant drive asserts or re-asserts itself. Thus a person like myself, who for years regarded himself as exclusively gay, gradually finds himself drawn towards a woman and begins to consider the possibility of becoming a father. He is most unlikely to lose his predominantly homosexual drive but may find himself settling quite happily into a lifestyle which is, at least quantitatively and physically, mainly heterosexual.
Similarly the man who has regarded himself as exclusively straight apart from one or two teenage episodes with male friends (which he has been encouraged to dismiss as an outgrown adolescent interlude) may gradually find himself rediscovering the joys of solitary wanking and, eventually, of mutual wanking with male friends. Assuming the dominant drive really is heterosexual, this counterbalancing return of interest in same-gender organs will remain secondary, but will still come to be valued as an important component of the sexual personality; it does for the main meal what mustard does for ham - if you like mustard.
Up to this point we have been dealing with the types of homosexuality which are, in varying degree, practically universal. There is no reason for anybody to be apprehensive or anxious about them because they do not raise any worrying questions about basic biological gender. A man who loves a man because he is a man, and who regards his sexual involvement with him as being that of a man for a man, is not doing anything to threaten his masculinity. Also, he is not going to cause an unwanted pregnancy or transmit unwanted diseases.
It is quite otherwise with anal sex, since this clearly does raise the whole question of gender identity. It also introduces a new factor into the sexual equation, the factor of androgyny. Above all, it introduces an alarming health hazard.
If bisexuality indicates a person's capacity to find persons of both genders sexually attractive, though not necessarily (or even usually) both with the same degree of excitement, androgyny, which is simply a compound of the Greek words for 'man' and 'woman', refers to the innate blend of male and female elements within the same person.
It is now well known everybody stems from a neutral ('x') ovary which is either masculinised or feminised according to whether the fertilising sperm has an 'x' or a 'y' sex chromosome. If the egg is fertilised by an 'x' sperm, it will become 'xx' (feminine), whilst a 'y' sperm produces an 'xy' (masculine) baby. There are other possibilities but they are very unusual.
Since all eggs are neutral and have to be ready to develop either way, it is not surprising all males have nipples (incipient mammary glands) and all females a clitoris (incipient penis) - (forgive the lapse into 'medical' jargon at this point but, until the medics themselves mend their ways, it is difficult to do otherwise in this rather technical context. It would be quite different if we were talking about ears or eyes, even if we were doctors!).
It is also widely recognised now this androgyny extends beyond the physical. However one tries to define the psychological and emotional traits of 'masculinity' or 'femininity', there is no way either can be regarded as the sole preserve of just one physical gender. The most masculine of men can manifest a most touching gentleness and tenderness whilst the most feminine of women can exhibit astonishing toughness and single-mindedness.
Carl Jung called attention to this fact by invoking the idea of a shadow-self within each person's unconscious which has the opposite traits of that self's biological gender, an animus ('masculine') in a woman and an anima ('feminine') in a man. This shadow-self always seeks to counterbalance the dominant tendency (usually the biological gender) of the personality [<>Laurens van der Post, in Jung and the Story of our Time, (1975), pp.205-229, shows how important this idea of the shadow-self was in Jung's own experience, especially in his later years].
Only in a very small proportion of individuals does the dominant aspect of the personality so blatantly contradict biological gender as to drive the person concerned eventually to request a surgeon and a hormone therapist to adjust the biology to fit the personality, allowing the 'woman trapped in a man's body' (or the reverse) to achieve a more congenial, less imprisoning, physical shape.
The obvious problem about this is there are limits to what surgery and hormone therapy can achieve: the transsexual process can never be perfectly carried through. A further problem is that people closely involved with somebody who has changed gender, especially their children (if any), have to learn to change their perception of that person: the erstwhile 'he' is now a 'she' (or vice versa); the erstwhile 'father' cannot become a 'mother' because the child already has a mother, so he has to become something highly complicated like a 'secondary-mother-who-was-originally-your-father'.
Anal sex introduces this kind of problem at the psycho-sexual level. A male usually first experiences the passive role in anal sex when he is coaxed, powerfully persuaded, or even raped by a man who wants him. This is most likely to happen when the male being pursued is young enough not to have developed the more obvious masculine features. This being so, he is likely to be at a particularly impressionable stage in his sexual development.
Even if he finds this first experience hurtful and/or repugnant, there is a possibility, if the experience is repeated regularly, he may acquire such a taste for it that it takes command of his sexual life, the principal object of which now becomes to get himself anally fucked. If this happens, he tends to lose interest in his male genitals, perhaps to such an extent that he repulses any advances made towards them and even eventually opts for a transsexual operation which rids him of them altogether.
Even when this does not happen, a male who has acquired a taste for passive anal sex tends to adopt a 'camp' profile, advertising to prospective male partners the kind of role he is interested in adopting.
At this point the complexities intensify because a male who flaunts an effeminate persona, even perhaps to the point of cross-dressing, may not in fact be seeking anal penetration. He may simply be advertising the fact he does not want to be the 'butch' partner in an encounter; he wants the other person to take the initiatives and be masterful - though not to the extent of anal penetration.
Over the years, I have come to realise my own preference in male-sex is for a partner who is feminine to the extent that he enjoys lying back and letting me take control of his body, especially his genitals. My main partner for over a decade ('A') is of this type. Although his dominant drive is heterosexual, he has not so far achieved sex with a woman. With me, he has become increasingly 'feminine' in our numerous sexual sessions. Although there is nothing the slightest bit 'camp' about him, although he wants nothing to do with anal sex, although he is very well-hung and very randy, he makes no bones about preferring to lie back and let me take the initiatives in love-making.
I am by no means averse to reversing roles when I find the right partner, but my experience in casual encounters is that it is much easier to find men who want things done to them than men who want to do things to me. This suits me very well as I am not really seeking orgasms when I am with a man but am very happy to ensure my partners get them. I much prefer being with a man who wants badly to be manhandled than with one who brushes off my attempts to get at him and wants only to concentrate on me.
I have, very occasionally, met a man, quite possibly a married man, who makes it clear he fervently wants to be on the receiving end, but anally not genitally. On these occasions, I have had to make it clear I am unable to oblige since this role would for me be merely mimicking my marital role and would be one for which I simply have no taste: I want a man sexually for what only a man can offer.
The answer to this question, then, has to be a resounding NO.
Homosexual sex is never anal since arses come with both genders. Men who opt for an exclusively homosexual lifestyle are very likely to feel a need for anal sex because they have no other means of satisfying their penetrative urges. The same applies to men who have to spend long periods in an all-male environment. Oral sex can be a kind of half-way house but it does not normally permit vigorous thrusting. Many cohabiting gay lovers include anal sex in their menu, either both as givers and receivers or with each preferring just one of these roles.
Men on the receiving end are often seduced or coerced and, as we have just noted, this can often happen when they are still young and beautiful. All boys need to be aware of this.
Many men who have had this experience in their adolescence shrug it off and soon switch to a more typically male role in sex. Some of them feel much as a woman would if she had been raped and need help to regain confidence and self-respect. Some discover that this role, which they almost never experience initially from choice, does actually suit them very well; they feel more at home in it than in any other. As we have seen, these men cannot strictly be regarded as homosexual since they are veering in a decidedly transsexual direction. There is nothing 'wrong' or 'unnatural' or 'immoral' or 'sinful' about going in this direction so long as they are quite sure this is the right direction for them and so long as they realise some of the problems they will face.
What matters most in this context is to be clear about the meaning of the terms we use. When it is said that virtually everybody is bisexual, this means virtually everybody is capable of being sexually attracted to people of both genders; it does not for a moment mean virtually all males are attracted towards anal sex. The latter functions as a quasi-heterosexual act for the active partner and a transsexual act for the passive partner.
It is also important to notice that anal sex does not, in itself, function as a homosexual act for either of the participants since homosexual acts must, by definition, involve the genital interaction of both participants. This can admittedly be off-set to some extent if the passive partner is being wanked at the same time as he is being fucked, but I have encountered more than one man who just wants to be penetrated and declines any approach to his genitals.
If all boys need to be aware they may be vulnerable to predatory males seeking pseudo-girl partners, they also need to be aware that this has little to do with homosexuality proper. They should never allow their anxiety to avoid an unwelcome kind of predator to inhibit their genuinely homosexual impulses.
Because of the taboo on any serious thought or discussion about homosexuality in our tradition, it is quite astonishing how little effort has been made to differentiate between the various possible expressions of love between males. Edward Carpenter tells us:
A friend (who has placed some notes at my disposal) says that in his time a certain well-known public school was a mass of uncleanness, incontinence, and dirty conversation, while at the same time a great deal of genuine affection, even to heroism, was shown among the boys in their relations with one another. But "all these things were treated by masters and boys alike as more or less unholy, with the result that they were either sought after or flung aside according to the sexual or emotional instinct of the boy. No attempt was made at discrimination. A kiss was by comparison as unclean as the act of fellatio, and no one had any gauge or principle whatever on which to guide the cravings of boyhood [<>Edward Carpenter, The Intermediate Sex, 1908, p.91].
Because this was written at the beginning of the twentieth century, anal sex is not even mentioned amongst the 'mass of uncleanness' practised at this school. The distinction made is between a kiss and an 'act of fellatio', presumably the wholesomely spiritual as opposed to the grossly physical, whereas, if a line is to be drawn between the homosexual and the quasi-heterosexual, the distinction should have been between acts involving boys' genitals and those involving their backsides!
It is always possible, of course, for a boy or youth to discover, even without being seduced or unduly pressured, that he has within himself an innate desire for transsexual lovemaking. If this should happen, he will need a lot of understanding and support because he runs a high risk of falling between two stools. If he goes the whole way and opts for a sex change, (s)he forfeits male options and risks ceasing to be attractive to the males (s)he had hoped to win.
This however is a relatively rare phenomenon and should not be allowed to befog the bisexual issue.
5: IS A BISEXUAL LIFESTYLE HEALTHY?
The HIV virus and AIDS has done for gay sex what syphilis did for straight sex more than a century ago: put the safety-factor right in the spotlight.
When the British government embarked on a post-war anti-VD campaign in the late forties, the slogan on all the big posters was Clean living is the only real safeguard.
It has to be admitted that you are far less likely to pick up a sexually transmitted disease (STD) if your sex life is confined to solitary wanking and to sex with a single partner who is known to be 'safe', i.e. similarly restricted in his or her sex life. This was in fact one of the main non-moralistic arguments in favour of the old morality. You could hardly have had a safer formula than 'chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage' and you could add, for good measure, 'tis better to be safe than sorry.'
The argument has lost its cogency these days because so few people now practice the old morality. There are many reasons for this: far greater economic and social freedom for teenagers, the widespread availability of reliable contraceptives, the feminist revolt against the traditional expectation that wives would devote themselves to childbearing, a more scientific and less religiously based attitude to sex, a vast increase in leisure time, far greater mobility, a new perception of the non-reproductive significance of sex - and so on.
The result of all this is, quite regardless of whether or not one lives bisexually, most modern sexual lifestyles involve an increased risk of transmitting STDs.
The biggest risk for teenagers engaging in unprotected, heterosexual sex is, for men, NSU (non-specific urethritis), and, for women, chlamydia. These diseases are interrelated and have been described as "the commonest form of sex infection in Britain today." [<>Dr David Devlin in The Devlin Report on Safer Sex, New English Library, 1987, pp. 132f]. If chlamydia is not properly and promptly treated, it usually results in a woman's becoming permanently infertile. There is of course a wide range of other horrors lurking in wait for the unwary.
The good news is that the commonest kind of bisexual lifestyle can and should be a lot safer than promiscuous, heterosexual lifestyles - and it never risks an unwanted pregnancy. This is the style which involves just one heterosexual partner and only non-anal sex between male partners.
Within such a framework, on the gay side, probably a good deal of time is spent in mutual fondling and wanking. This is as non-hazardous as solitary wanking.
The same applies to whole-body contact, whether this be simply a close embrace or the actual fucking of one guy against the other, either prick to prick or prick against any part of the body surface or prick between the legs of the other. So long as there is no penetration and so long as no body fluids are exchanged internally, there is a very high degree of safety. Herpes and warts, etc, can be transmitted externally but a little discretion can usually avert visible hazards.
Oral intimacy is more problematic. Kissing is usually safe enough unless the kissing in question becomes deep mutual tonguing, in which case it is highly important there be no bleeding gums on either side and no contagious mouth infection. It is safest to restrict this kind of kissing to trusted partners with whom one is in, or intends to be in, a sustained relationship.
The biggest risk in non-anal sexual encounters between males is in oral-genital contact. Cocksucking (or, in my terminology, more usually prick-sucking!) is very popular and is very widely practised. The chief dangers are two-fold:
 the prick one sucks may have been engaged in anal sex without thorough washing between times, something which is most likely to happen where men are in a an all-male, promiscuous venue; this is the most common means of transmitting a potentially lethal form of hepatitis;
 fluids coming from the prick being sucked may be infected with HIV, which may then be transmitted to the person doing the sucking, a risk which increases if orgasm occurs inside the mouth and is further increased if semen is swallowed.
Some men are so aware of these dangers, either they refuse to suck another man unless he is a steady partner who is known to be safe or a partner who is happy about using a condom, which can be of the pleasantly flavoured variety.
In my experience, most men are a little less rigorous and prefer to exercise discretion along the following lines:
 They refuse to take a prick in their mouths if it is uncircumcised and harbouring smegma under the foreskin or if it has any visible signs of infection or of warts or any slightest trace of blood on it.
 They ask anybody who is not well-known to them if he engages in anal sex. If the answer is 'yes' and the answer to subsequent questions casts doubt on this person's being safety-conscious, the price of a suck is willingness to use a condom.
 With anybody except a known and trusted partner, if orgasm occurs whilst the prick is in the mouth, the semen (or as much of it as possible) is promptly spitted out. This situation is avoided if at all possible, but some men cum - this is an Americanism which has a lot to commend it as it is brevity itself and is less ambiguous than come - so quickly and with so little warning an occasional slip is to be expected and is no cause for undue alarm if the earlier precautions have been observed.
In general, the type of bisexual lifestyle most commonly practised - just one heterosexual partnership and only non-anal sex between males - involves little more risk to health than a strictly monogamous lifestyle but confers rather more advantages, as the following chapter makes clear.
Before going on to look at the other likeliest bisexual lifestyles, a word should be said about finger-fucking. Many men who refuse anal penetration by a prick (either because of the health risk or because they fear the possible gender implications of getting hooked on this) nevertheless welcome anal penetration by a finger or fingers. The much more drastic practice of fist-fucking, which can, apparently, be highly dangerous, is something I have only read about; I have never ever encountered anybody who has experienced it himself or proposed doing it to me.
Those who enjoy being finger-fucked usually regard it as additional stimulation whilst being simultaneously wanked or sucked or whilst they are fucking against their partner's thigh or prick. Many men draw the line at actual penetration by a finger, but do appreciate the pressure of a finger against the entrance to the anus just before they reach a climax.
Provided the finger(s) involved is(are) clean, nails suitably trimmed, and without any open wounds, there is virtually no risk of transmitting HIV this way. What can be transmitted is a lethal type of hepatitis. This is most likely to happen if a finger which has been used for anal penetration then grips the partner's prick, which is then sucked shortly afterwards by him or by another person.
To safeguard against this risk, it is imperative to remember precisely which finger(s) have been involved in anal penetration and to keep those fingers totally out of play for the rest of that sexual session. For this reason, it is much safest to reserve any sex play involving finger-fucking (or even fingers against the anal opening) for the final stages of a session. Needless to say, the probing finger(s) need(s) to be thoroughly washed at the earliest opportunity to avoid contaminating food, etc.
There are two other main bisexual lifestyles, neither of them as widely practised as the one just considered and both a good deal riskier in various ways.
The first of these is scarcely a bisexual lifestyle at all since, although it involves sexual partners of both genders, the man is only performing as a male heterosexually; in homosexual situations he performs mainly, often exclusively, as a female. This kind of male is not really seeking sex with both genders so much as seeking the sexual experience of both genders within himself: when he is with another man, he adopts a 'female' rather than a typically 'male' role, his own genitals being relegated to a strictly subordinate role if they come into play at all. This is not true of the more widely experienced types of homosexual experience.
Obviously the main - and considerable - risk in this lifestyle is it involves anal sex in which the bisexual partner is on the receiving end - the riskier end. Ideally the malesex should only occur at a site where it is possible for both partners to wash scrupulously before and after the act. Since this kind of site usually implies partners who know each other well enough to be able to trust each other's reliability regarding health, this is a further safeguard against the risk of transmitting or contracting the HIV virus.
Even so, the risks are so great and a bisexual partner has such a heavy responsibility towards his heterosexual partner, perhaps also his as-yet-unborn children, many men would now insist a condom always be used when anal sex takes place and great care be taken to avoid any risk of anal>oral contact, either directly or through the intermediary of fingers, throughout the proceedings.
The remaining bisexual lifestyle to be considered is much less well-defined than the others and therefore entails still greater risk unless commensurate care is taken.
One occasionally meets men who have no specific gender preference at all; they are equally open to sexual involvement with partners of both genders.
Although the sexual options of such men are wide open, they do in fact often channel most of their sexual energy into one central relationship on each side. Even so, they are likely to be open to the occasional casual encounter provided it does not threaten or detract from these central relationships. Whereas in the first lifestyle we considered any casual sex would be homosexual, here it could be either.
The only extra health risk this involves is, since heterosexual sex is almost always penetrative, casual encounters of this kind do involve a greater risk of transmitting STDs than non-anal sex between males. There is also of course the risk of causing an unwanted pregnancy. Both these risks can usually be offset by using a condom.
If the man concerned is cohabiting with a woman, and is possibly also the father of her children, sex with other women also runs the risk of causing jealousy in the cohabiting partner and invidious comparisons on his part. Whilst not a health risk in the conventional sense, such factors can obviously have consequences which are far from healthy.
Whether in order to avoid the risk of such upheavals or because of the conditions imposed by their jobs (like the need for constant travel or total unpredictability of hours) or simply because of their temperament, some bisexual men refuse to cohabit with any one partner and try to avoid any kind of relational entanglement.
It is this kind of lifestyle which entails the highest health risks since it usually implies promiscuity without any relational anchorage and without any gender barriers. Some men of this type are still highly responsible and meticulous about practising safe sex; others are not and are very definitely to be avoided.
Inevitably, a question about health raises the spectre of risk and infection. This in turn can cause things to get badly out of proportion.
It needs to be remembered sex in itself never generates harmful bacteria or viruses; it merely transmits what is already there. Similarly, the exchanging of body fluids internally only becomes hazardous if one of the fluids involved is infected. The degree of caution necessary, therefore, depends entirely on how well one knows one's partners and what kind of activity is engaged in.
There IS a problem about anal sex, however. Unless great care is taken, any form of anal sex can cause bacteria to be transferred from the intestinal tract (where they are benign) to other bodily systems (where they can become lethal).
It has recently been discovered that uncircumcised men are at considerately greater risk of contracting HIV than men who are circumcised. It had been noticed earlier that there was a much higher incidence of AIDS in Africa amongst tribesmen who had not been circumcised as part of their initiation. Eventually medical researchers discovered the reason: the underside of the foreskin is more prone to HIV infection than any other area of the body's skin surface. This is because the sensitive cells on the inner layer of the foreskin, normally able to alert the body’s immune system when threats are detected, in this case absorb the very invading cells which undermine that immune system. It is therefore extremely important for men who are not circumcised always to use a condom when they engage in any kind of sex which is not absolutely safe. Circumcision is by no means a guarantee of immunity to HIV infection, so even circumcised men need to use a condom whenever there is risk.
Heterosexual sex and non-anal sex between males, unless it is violent enough to cause physical damage, is a perfectly healthy activity in itself. Although some moralists hate to admit this, the deprivation of sex, or the banning of the kind of sex which the person concerned most ardently desires, probably causes far more ill-health than sex. I know, in my own experience, the few periods when my life has been shadowed by sexual frustration have been periods dogged by bad health of all descriptions, including TB, whilst the far more frequent times of sexual happiness have been times of great good health.
6: WHAT IS GAINED BY LIVING BISEXUALLY?
The single-word answer to this question is: completeness.
A man who lives bisexually is free to harness the full range of his sexual, emotional and relational potential. He can have a stable cohabiting relationship; he can be a father; he can have at least one in-depth relationship with a person of gender opposite to his cohabiting partner; he can engage in more casual same-sex encounters or even, if this is desired and found to be workable, with people of opposite gender.
This kind of declaration often provokes counter-questions like: “Why should anybody want so much?”, “If a fellow is happily married and has a lovely family, why risk upsetting the applecart?”
These are serious questions and they deserve careful answers.
The way we have been conditioned to fit without complaining into a sexual and relational pattern which is monolithic and which has been hallowed and reinforced over many centuries must be constantly borne in mind. As Jean Cocteau expressed it, even when writing from within the legally liberated French ethos:
My misfortunes are due to a society which condemns anything out of the ordinary as a crime and forces us to reform our natural inclinations [<>Quoted from Cocteau's Le Livre Blanc in Rictor Norton's website, Cocteau's White Paper on Homophobia].
This applies in most cultures, though few have been as monolithic as our own. It is chilling to recall how, as recently as the nineteenth century, men in Britain were being executed for homosexual offences. Homosexual acts between consenting adults had been taken off the statute books in most other European countries before 1800 and, even when this had not happened, they had ceased to be a capital offence. It was quite otherwise in these islands:
At the beginning of the nineteenth century a moral clampdown was impending in London. In February 1804 Mathusalah Spalding was hanged for having a "venereal affair" with James Hankinson. In October 1808 Richard Neighbour was convicted for buggery with Joshua Archer, and sentenced to be hanged. In 1809 Richard Thomas Dudman and Edward Wood were convicted of a "conspiracy" to commit sodomy, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment and to stand for one hour in the pillory, where they were pelted with offal supplied by the butchers of Newgate and Fleet Markets [<>Quoted from the Vere Street Coterie file on the Rictor Norton homepage on the Internet where a great many other carefully documented files can be found].
There was an increase in prosecutions throughout the first third of the nineteenth century in Britain. In 1806, there were more executions for sodomy than for murder. In 1816, four crewmen from a single ship were tried and executed for 'buggery'. The death penalty was not removed until 1861, though it was not applied after the 1830s. Even after 1861, the penalties for sodomy ranged from ten years' to life imprisonment.
In 1885, the Labouchère Amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Act extended the range of homosexual crimes to include such 'misdemeanours' as gross indecency; these were notoriously ill-defined but could be punished by up to two years' hard labour [<>See Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics & Society: the regulation of sexuality since 1800 in Longman’s Themes in British Social History series, second edition, 1989, pp.100-102]. This lumping together of all male-male sex was to have very far-reaching effects on general attitudes to male homosexuality.
Homosexual acts between consenting adults in private ceased to be criminal in Britain after 1967 but, just a few years before that, there had been a horrifying return of legal savagery against homosexuals in Nazi Germany. Soon after Hitler came to power he criminalised homosexual acts between men. After the 'Night of the Long Knives' (June 30, 1934), in which Ernst Röhm (the homosexual head of Hitler's stormtroopers), along with 200 other SA officers, were summarily shot, homosexual men began to be systematically rounded up, made to wear the pink triangle, and sent to concentration camps, where they were treated with especial harshness and where most of them were eventually killed.
Himmler was particularly fanatical in his pursuit of homosexuals. They were an affront to the purity of the 'master race' and must be ruthlessly exterminated, along with Jews, Gypsies and all other 'degenerates'. In 1941, Himmler sent a secret circular to his SS generals instructing that any member of the SS or the police who committed an indecent act with another man or allowed himself to be indecently abused should be condemned to death and executed.
Less grave offences like 'touching the body of the other person, even when fully clothed, also the act of kissing' should be punished by not less than six years' penal servitude. When one realises what 'penal servitude' usually entailed under these circumstances, it is clear this too was tantamount to a death sentence [<>see the page relating to Nazi Persecution of Gays at the Rictor Norton site on the Internet. Counterbalancing this is the evidence supplied by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams in The Pink Swastika, revised in 2001. Although the authors are dogmatically opposed to homosexual practice of any kind, they do show convincingly that the tie-up between a 'butch', sadistic type of homosexuality and Nazism - even with Hitler himself - was far more extensive than was ever publicly admitted.].
It is one of the great ironies of history that such a degenerate-looking bunch of men as the top echelons of the Nazi party should have been so hysterical about purging the race of 'degenerate' genes. It must have infuriated them when so many of those they hounded to death were physically so much more attractive than themselves. It must have been a great consolation to believe that the real degeneracy was in ethnic inheritance or sexual deviance rather than in actual physique or intellectual capacity.
The truly astounding thing is that a major European power could, not much more than half a century ago, convince itself that homosexual behaviour stemmed from a genetic inheritance which was best annihilated.
History had a joke against Hitler when one of the Jews who managed, by the skin of their teeth, to escape from the Nazis and flee to Britain in 1937 was Sigmund Freud, the very man who had insisted that the basic constitution of every human being is bisexual. This is most strongly emphasised in his Civilization and Its Discontents, which was first published in 1930, the year when Hitler was on the brink of absolute power in Germany. In a footnote to the text of that book he had written:
.....if we assume it as a fact that each individual seeks to satisfy both male and female wishes in his sexual life, we are prepared for the possibility that those two sets of demands are not fulfilled by the same object, and that they interfere with each other unless they can be kept apart and each impulse guided into a particular channel that is suited to it [<>Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1961, pp.105ff, footnote 3. For other references in the standard edition of Freud's works, see vol 1, p.179; vol 18, pp.156f; vol 19,pp.31, 258; vol 20, p.36; vol 21, pp183f, 227f].
To return to the counter-questions with which we are dealing, it is essential to bear in mind the weight of cultural conditioning to which all British males have been subjected. Although the scene has changed dramatically in recent years, a considerable homophobic hangover is only to be expected.
A good deal of this homophobia is simply a projection. Many men would rather confront the 'queers' out there than come to terms with the queerness lurking within themselves. Even when a certain indwelling queer streak is acknowledged, it is promptly disowned by being attributed to some evil seducer or abuser who somehow managed to insinuate it into their otherwise pristine unqueerness. Many current accusations of sexual abuse in childhood plead a prior innocence which is again strikingly at variance with Freud's detection of "polymorphous perversity" in the children he observed [<>See Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, Penguin edition, 1964, pp. 232f, 277-80, 543].
The seeming innocence of the questions therefore calls for scrutiny. The implication is that wanting to satisfy the whole of one's sexuality is nothing but a fad, a needless rocking of the boat, which is totally uncalled for, especially if one's dominant drive is heterosexual. It is as if a right-handed person were told to dispense with his other hand: "you've got one perfectly good hand; what on earth do you want to keep the other one for?" This is such obvious nonsense nobody would give it a minute's consideration, yet this is very much the kind of thing the counter-questioner seems to be saying.
As we have observed earlier in this book, few people are bisexual in the sense they are unaware of any gender preference at all. A few are like this and are best described as ambisexual, on the analogy of those who can use both hands with equal ease and are described as ambidextrous. But simply because most of us have one hand which is cleverer than the other it would be the height of absurdity to suggest there are not innumerable occasions when we should be heavily handicapped if we had only the clever hand. Two hands are very often needed to perform a task efficiently and, on these occasions, both hands perform equally well.
Anybody who has evolved a satisfying bisexual lifestyle is aware there is a close analogy in the sexual sphere. Sexual preference merely corresponds to clever-handedness; most of us have it but it is extremely rarely the whole story. We each have a dual sexual nature and we ignore the less pushy side of it at our peril.
Many men who claim to be '100% straight' nevertheless spend a great deal of their leisure time with their 'mates', chatting at the pub, cheering at a soccer match, and so on. If they actually play professional football, they may engage in some alarmingly 'queer' behaviour when a goal is scored, but will usually insist, if questioned about this, it is 'perfectly innocent' (i.e. 'sexless' - as if to be sexy would be to incur guilt!).
Those who defend this kind of ethos claim it is far healthier for male companionship to be kept virile and manly: no floppy wrists and no unwanted emotion! If asked why any non-sporting physical contact between males, or anything approaching tenderness, is so abhorrent to them, they usually just shudder - and the shudder says it all.
The truth is the huge majority of men have quite a history of wanking. Having discovered the erotic potential of their own pricks, it would be strange indeed if they did not then want to explore the pricks of others. Indeed, it is often in erotic play with their pals that boys first learn to wank. If a boy wanks in solitude and never graduates to social wanking, it may be simply from shyness (not knowing how to go about breaking the sexual ice) or from fear of being labelled a 'poofta' or being laughed at because of the size or shape of his organs, or from a more deeply-implanted fear that any ventures in this direction could 'queer' him for life.
Boys at this age have rarely been given any guidance about the difference between genuinely homosexual experiences and those which are quasi-heterosexual (i.e. anal) so they are encouraged to lump them both together and shun both. This does not prevent a good deal of covert fascination with other male genitals when they are in the showers or when they get the chance to see pictures of nude males!
There are three types of sexual experience which, if no taboos are operating, we should regard as universal. In Freudian terms, these are the auto-, the homo- and the hetero- erotic. The typical course of sexual development is to move through these stages in this order, finally graduating in the hetero-erotic. Sometimes, as just noted, the first two coincide. Occasionally, a boy's very first sexual experience is seduction by an older girl or woman, in which case he leaps straight to stage three.
A boy who becomes unusually reclusive for some reason may never ever venture into social sex, in which case, he spends his life at the first stage. A boy who has graduated to the second stage may find this so congenial he decides to stay there for the rest of his life, henceforth regarding himself as 'a homosexual'.
Whatever the order in which a person develops sexually, it is generally a mistake to imagine, if and when the third stage is reached, the others can be kicked away as if, having served their turn, they are no longer needed. When Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz published the findings of their research into the sex lives of bisexual men and women (they conducted 156 semi-structured interviews and a number of unstructured interviews) [ <> Philip W. Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, Bisexuality: Some Social Psychological Issues in the Journal of Social Issues, 33, 2:30-45. (1977)], they warned against generalisations but were able to offer three conclusions:
From our data, then, we conclude that (a) sex-object choice and sexual identification can change in many ways and many times over the lifecycle, (b) the individual is often unaware of his or her ability to change, and (c) childhood and adolescent experiences are not the final determinants of adult sexuality [<>quoted from Merl Storr (ed), Bisexuality: a critical reader, Routledge, 1999, p.66].
Later in the same article, these researchers noted:
Several previously heterosexual men who came to a bisexual identity in their 30s reported they had had early homosexual experiences with close teen-age friends when heterosexual relations were somewhat limited. They had treated these experiences as irrelevant teen-age play, until adult experiences precipitated reconsideration [<>idem. p. 71].
It is here the analogy between sexuality and left- or right- handedness breaks down completely. It is vitally important to be clear about this. A person who is left-handed does with his left hand exactly the same things as other people do with their right. A person who is relating homosexually is doing entirely different things from a person who is relating heterosexually. This will be spelled out in greater detail in the next chapter.
It is precisely for this reason a person relating bisexually has a completeness of sexual experience which is denied to all others. A person who is left-handed is not presented with a different range of options from the right-handed person whereas a person who is living heterosexually, but is also open to homosexual experience (or vice versa), is presented with a whole set of additional options.
Notice this does not apply to anal sex, at least for the active partner, since he is doing very much the same kind of thing with a man as he would be doing with a woman - and he could do the very same thing with a woman. The passive partner is certainly having a very different experience from anything he could experience with a woman but, if he decides this is his preferred role, he is at war with his biological gender and tends to want to disown his genitals and become a woman, thus limiting, not extending, his options.
Genuinely homosexual experience, on the other hand, is by definition totally different from heterosexual experience since it requires genitals of one's own gender, not the opposite. The things a man can do with another prick are quite different from the things a man can do with a cunt - and many of them are different from what he can do with his own prick.
Wanking is also distinctively different from social sex, its huge advantage being its constant availability, one's own genitals being a DIY kit which is always to hand. Wanking therefore seldom outlives its usefulness. Even when a person has graduated to stages two and three, there will be times when he or she is separated from usual partners and when there is nobody attractive and available around, or when that person just happens to be in the mood for a solitary session. For many men, probably most, this first stage is never entirely discarded even when stages two and three have proved extremely fulfilling for them.
Yet it is strange indeed when men who have had some very exciting homosexual experiences in their early teens, then go on to discover the joys of sex with women, take it for granted their homosexual exploits were just a transitional interlude for which they no longer have any need. Only centuries of social and cultural conditioning could make such a conclusion seem plausible.
At the purely physical level, there are a lot of sexually frustrated married men around. However good their marital sex life, there just isn't enough of it because the wife, especially if she has become a mother, simply does not have as big a sexual appetite as the husband. This is not infallibly the case, of course, but it very commonly is. He does not want to force himself on her; he does not want to be 'unfaithful'; he may have one or two good male friends but cannot imagine what they would say if he tried to get sexy with them; in the end, he either gets angry or he settles for a wank - but resents the fact something better is being blocked.
This seems very sad, especially when we begin to realise that beneath the macho exterior which our taboo-ridden culture has imposed on so many men, there lurks a being who is almost poetical in his yearning for real intimacy with another man. The need is not just for malesex - though that need should never be underestimated - but also, and perhaps even more, for a real sense of sharing, of bonding, at the deepest emotional level.
D.H. Lawrence puts his finger on exactly this spot in the conversation between his two central male characters, after they have had a bout of nude wrestling, in Women in Love:
"'You know how the old German knights used to swear a Blutbruderschaft,' he said to Gerald, with quite a new happy activity in his eyes.
'Make a little wound in their arms, and rub each other's blood into the cut?' said Gerald.
'Yes -- and swear to be true to each other, of one blood, all their lives. That is what we ought to do. No wounds, that is obsolete. But we ought to swear to love each other, you and I, implicitly, and perfectly, finally, without any possibility of going back on it.'
He looked at Gerald with clear, happy eyes of discovery. Gerald looked down at him, attracted, so deeply bondaged in fascinated attraction, that he was mistrustful, resenting the bondage, hating the attraction.
'We will swear to each other, one day, shall we?' pleaded Birkin. 'We will swear to stand by each other -- be true to each other -- ultimately -- infallibly -- given to each other, organically -- without possibility of taking back.'
Birkin sought hard to express himself. But Gerald hardly listened. His face shone with a certain luminous pleasure. He was pleased. But he kept his reserve. He held himself back.
'Shall we swear to each other, one day?' said Birkin, putting out his hand towards Gerald.
Gerald just touched the extended fine, living hand, as if withheld and afraid.
'We'll leave it till I understand it better,' he said, in a voice of excuse."
Birkin tries to tell Ursula how he has felt about Gerald right at the end of the novel. Here are the closing lines:
'"Having you, I can live all my life without anybody else, any other sheer intimacy. But to make it complete, really happy, I wanted eternal union with a man too: another kind of love,' he said.
'I don't believe it,' she said. 'It's an obstinacy, a theory, a perversity.'
'Well --' he said.
'You can't have two kinds of love. Why should you!'
'It seems as if I can't,' he said. 'Yet I wanted it.'
'You can't have it, because it's false, impossible,' she said.
'I don't believe that,' he answered.
- and there the novel ends.
It is often forgotten that, even in Lady Chatterley's Lover, his famous plea for an earthier sexiness in heterosexual loving, a bisexual element again creeps in. Connie asks Mellors about his time in the army:
'And weren't you happy, when you were ..an officer and a gentleman?'
'Happy? All right. I liked my Colonel.'
'Did you love him?'
'Yes! I loved him.'
'And did he love you?'
'Yes! In a way, he loved me. ..... I lived under his spell while I was with him. I sort of let him run my life. And I never regretted it.'
'And did you mind very much when he died?'
'I was as near death myself. But when I came to, I knew another part of me was finished. But then I had always known it would finish in death.'
Lawrence tries to verbalise what is in so many men's hearts, getting them to say things they find it very hard to say. This springs, not from some classically-nourished academic grove, but from the hard face of the Nottinghamshire coalfield. It is not without a certain proletarian desire to keep the male-male relationship muscular and macho, in spite of the raw yearning embedded in it.
Lawrence himself reacted vehemently against his friend, David Garnett, when he tried to reconcile Lawrence to Francis Birrell and other members of the Bloomsbury Group. He wrote to Garnett:
Never bring Birrell to see me any more. There is something nasty about him like black beetles. He is horrible and unclean. I feel I should go mad when I think of your set. Duncan Grant and Keynes and Birrell. It makes me dream of beetles. ....... you must leave these friends, these beetles. [<>Quentin Bell, Bloomsbury, Futura, 1974 (1968), p.48].
The homophobic hangover is not only a matter of moral and religious conditioning but also of deeply ingrained class antagonisms. Men in our culture obviously have a great deal to work out of their systems before they will be able, as a matter of course, to relax in mutual love and friendship.
Yet we can confidently leave Birkin to have the last word in answer to our question:
But to make it complete, really happy, I wanted eternal union with a man too: another kind of love.
7: WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO WAYS OF LOVING ?
This is obviously an important question since, whatever the similarity, there needs to be enough difference between loving a man and loving a woman to account for the value we attach to the same person's loving both.
The good news is there is more than enough.
Having said that, we can look at some of the similarities:
In both cases, 'loving' may be a misnomer since sex with a partner of either gender may be just, or mainly, that. On the other hand, 'loving' may be an equally accurate description of what is going on in both cases. Because of the homophobic hangover mentioned in the previous chapter, perhaps also because of temperament, some men have a big problem about this: they can enjoy having sex with another man but find the thought of actually loving another man, at least sexually, very alien. That 'at least sexually' needs looking at carefully. If you can enjoy sex with a man and if you can 'love' another man asexually, why can't you love him sexually?
Both kinds of loving involve the genitals of at least one partner. Oral, manual and anal sex do not require two sets of genitals unless they are reciprocal (in which case the reciprocity can be either simultaneous - as in sixty-nineing or mutual wanking - or successive -as when partners swop roles in mid-session).
Sex with either gender can also involve whole bodies. This does not have to be the case and often is not when the sex is 'casual', not intended to foster a relationship or convey emotion. A loving sex act, in contrast, almost always involves whole bodies, not just genitals.
Regardless of the genders involved, body contact, including genital contact, can be purely sensuous or it can be both sensuous and expressive. When it is expressive, it is usually the whole range of loving emotions which is expressed - tenderness, affection, hunger, passion, care, protection, joy. When it is just sensuous, although the original intention may be simply to give and receive physical pleasure, the sensations themselves often beget surprising surges of emotion. It is interesting that the two kinds of body contact, sensuous and expressive, often look identical to a third party. A kiss, for instance, may go well beyond mere lip contact but be intended simply to yield pleasure; what looks to an observer like an identical kiss may feel to the participants to be expressing the profoundest emotions. The same applies to stroking and caressing.
Whether sensuous or expressive or both, sex with either gender speaks its own language, unmediated by words. It is this more than any other single factor which makes sex so satisfying. Verbal communication is limited to those who speak our language and, even then, is often detached and impersonal. Sexual communication can crash through linguistic barriers since, in this arena, we all speak much the same language. And sex is always direct, bringing two people together in the most literal sense.
These are some of the similarities. What is significant in the present context is what is distinctive to the two kinds of loving and/or sex. It is these differences which give a bisexual lifestyle such a satisfying sense of completeness.
The most obvious difference is, of course, that sex between genders can usually be reproductive whilst sex between partners of the same gender never can. One immediately has to qualify this by adding, due to the widespread use of contraception, the huge majority of even heterosexual acts is not these days intended to lead to pregnancy.
This should not obscure the fact that heterosexual acts must, at some level of awareness, be associated with parenting and with powerful in-built urges to perpetuate the species and, more especially, our own genes.
Homosexual acts never have these associations. If one is fixated on the reproductive function of sex, as traditional Catholicism is, for example, there is no point at all in engaging in sex that is not intended to be reproductive or which cannot possibly be reproductive: hence the ban (not conspicuously observed!) on contraception, homosexual acts, and even wanking.
The huge majority of modern adults accept that, at least in quantitative terms, reproduction, however important, is very much a sexual sideline. For most couples, a very few sex acts can furnish all the children they want. Gone for ever are the days when marriage meant, for most women, a seemingly endless succession of pregnancies, followed, all too often, by a string of infant and child mortalities - assuming the mother herself managed to survive. Contraception and modern health care have changed all that. Heterosexual couples nowadays expect to enjoy a great deal of sex which is non- reproductive.
Although this is unquestionably true, there are often limits imposed on marital sex by such factors as pregnancy, care of infants, interrupted nights when a child is yelling or ill, the periodicity of a woman's sexual cycle, and so on. There is a general tendency for the sex to take on a domesticated, familial aspect.
None of this applies to sex between two women or two men. It is true gay and lesbian couples, although they cannot engender children within the partnership, are increasingly being allowed to adopt children. When this occurs, even their sex lives take place against the background of a family.
For people who live bisexually, however, this would only apply in a ménage a trois or some kind of communal set-up. When a man simply cohabits with a woman, his same-sex relationships and encounters are of an entirely different order from his domestic love-life. Homosexually, the impetus toward sex has nothing to do with children, everything to do with the desirability of same-sex bodies and the enrichment of same-sex intimacy.
This entails a fundamental difference in attitude to the sex organs themselves. Heterosexually, a prick is primarily an instrument, a 'tool', something which, as the word 'prick' itself implies, is destined to penetrate and, ultimately, to inseminate. Homosexually, another man's prick is regarded in much the same way as one's own when wanking, not a 'tool' or instrument so much as a thing of joy in its own right. This does not apply if anal sex is the chief objective but, as we have stressed earlier [<>see especially chapter 4], anal sex is a quasi-heterosexual, not a homosexual, act.
The homosexual preoccupation with pricks - balls too - as objects of desire in their own right is virtually universal and springs directly from the experience of solitary wanking. As we have already observed, it is hardly conceivable, having discovered the delights of one's own prick, that one should not get interested in other pricks. Unless repressive taboos or restrictions are imposed, mutual wanking is the obvious next step. Indeed, as we saw earlier, many youths make their first erotic discoveries in company with their pals.
Sadly, dominant drive and social pressure either stifle this impulse completely or dismiss it as 'just a phase he's going through'. In a society which insists adult male comradeship should be sexless, devoid of any strongly expressed emotion, and where pairing into heterosexual couples is the only acceptable way to go, it is hardly surprising, especially when a fellow's predominant drive is heterosexual anyway, if he seems quite happy to swim with the tide.
This can work very well for a time. Young love tends to be all-consuming and to promise total bliss. It is only over a period of time most men, if they have had some acutely pleasurable experiences in adolescence when wanking with their pals, gradually become aware of a missing dimension in their marital lives. Many of them fail to diagnose the problem; many of the others begin to seek out the odd homosexual encounter in secret.
The lucky ones - and I have to say, because of the homophobic hangover, they have usually, though not invariably, been those with a predominantly homosexual drive who have yet fallen in love with a woman, cohabited with her and fathered her children - have learned to recover the lost dimension. It is not solely a matter of recovery either; maturity adds a great deal to what had been lost.
Most early sex is intensely exciting because of its newness and the sense of tearing down taboos which go with it. But youth is a time of self-discovery rather than of deep involvement with other selves; it is also a time when proving oneself, earning a living, paying the bills - all the pre-occupations of dawning adulthood - tend to hog the centre of the stage.
It is usually only as a person matures that a sense of self becomes rounded and grounded. With growing confidence in one's own identity comes much greater freedom to enter into really deep and intimate relationships with others. Maturity also brings greater clarity about values and goals, and these often give increasing priority to people and to a quest for greater depth in relationships.
A man who has anchored his emotions and his sexuality in a female partner and fathered a family with her (assuming this has been desired and proved possible) approaches another man, who is possibly in the same sexual situation as himself, in a different way from a boy approaching a close friend at school.
That boyishness is rarely completely lost. One of the joys of male companionship at any level is its 'holiday' aspect. Amongst adults, this is particularly evident in casual sexual encounters where conversation is minimal or even non-existent and where the mood is mutually celebratory, devoid of concern about serious adult affairs.
Even in a sustained relationship which lasts for years, this element usually continues to play a valued role. But now, other elements enter in and transform what could have been a narrowly physical affair into poetry.
When two such men are sexually engaged, they remain prick-centred and may be quite happy to keep words to a minimum, finding their eloquence in body language. But now their pricks and bodies become also the exquisitely sensitive and sensuous conveyors of emotion.
There is a basic male lust, straining towards orgasm, which is equally shared by both and gives an underlying intensity to the proceedings. But over and above this, there is a passion to say, through lips, tongues, hands, fingers, the whole of their anatomies, pre-eminently their pricks and balls, how utterly and passionately they delight in each other, desire to give themselves to each other and crave the closest possible intimacy with each other.
This may sound very similar to what goes on between heterosexual lovers. Certainly. It is in its essential form. But it is very different in its content. This is another man's body being loved. It feels and responds quite differently from a woman's but has resonances which are as familiar as one's own body. Some oral sex may well form part of the lovemaking, as may some fingering around, perhaps even into, the arsehole, but, assuming we are talking about a truly homosexual act, penetration is not the goal. If one or both partners wants to do some really vigorous thrusting, there is endless scope for this when one lies atop the other and fucks his partner's prick, or thighs or any other part of the anatomy they mutually favour.
This is a celebration of mutual maleness; it has no ulterior purpose or function. When finally the cum spurts, it simply registers a peak and presents the partners with the possibility of falling into each other as their pricks slowly subside. The poor little sperms all go to a lonely grave - which is probably as well since most men, in a lifetime, manufacture enough of them to populate the globe.
The point of orgasm is another difference. Heterosexually, orgasms can be very intense but they are hidden away. Homosexually, except in anal sex, orgasms happen out in the open and can be viewed by both parties. Men are sometimes a bit squeamish about cum, especially if they are unused to seeing and touching it. I find, in some of my encounters, an orgasm is a signal to reach for the tissues and 'clean up' as quickly as possible. With most men, though, it is exciting to see a partner shooting, then to use his cum as a lubricant for further loveplay.
Here we have to note a difference between homosexual and heterosexual lovemaking which should not exist but probably will for as long as it takes for public opinion generally to catch up with all the changes of the past few decades.
Heterosexual love has been traditionally honoured in our kind of society, whilst homosexual love has been denigrated. A direct consequence of this is nobody disputes the right of a mixed couple to seek a bed and privacy so they can make love to their mutual satisfaction. There are still many people who dispute the right of a homosexual couple to do likewise and will make it as difficult as possible for such a couple to enjoy satisfactory sex together.
We have inherited a tradition which assigns malesex to holes and corners, some of them as unsavoury as public toilets, and then takes delight in deriding the squalor of such couplings. Whenever two men who really care for each other manage to find the kind of facilities which heterosexual couples take for granted, their lovemaking takes wings as readily as the latter's.
I am in the happy position of being able to bring 'A' back home with me so we can have the run of the guest bedroom. After our early fumblings in the back of the car, never able to relax, always having to keep an eye open for prying eyes, it has been the height of luxury to have the privacy and convenience of a bedroom. Sex whilst standing or sitting certainly has its merits, but it is much more restricting than horizontal sex, especially if you want to make love rather than just have sex.
Our other great good fortune is to have discovered this beach where nudity is permitted and where, in the seclusion of the dunes behind the beach, sex can happen. On a suitably warm and wind-free day when 'A' is free (which happens only once in seven days in summer) this venue has permitted the two of us to experience some magical moments together and occasionally, if we have both been feeling hospitable, to enjoy the company of a guest.
I have some very good friendships with men, even with gay men, in which no sex has ever happened. I have other friendships going right back to early schooldays which were nourished by a lot of mutual wanking. Although we have never lived close to each other since we left school and have had no sex since those days, the early sex forged a specially close link and I am still in close touch with two of these friends and their families.
Highly satisfying as this is, the relationship with 'A' is in a category of its own. We are both quite happy to get on with our own separate lives when we are apart, but this is because we both know the apartness is never more than geographical. No words could possibly convey the difference it makes when, in addition to the immense enrichment of living with a loving wife and family, there is also a constant awareness of another man whose heart, mind and prick beat in unison with one's own.
I just hope 'A' may eventually find the girl he so ardently desires so she can be, not a substitute for me, but a complement, just as he is for me. Meanwhile, when he is on his own, 'A' gets enormous pleasure from wanking, which is ideal from my point of view because it keeps his prick in excellent form and makes it always hungry for my fingers!
8: CAN YOU HAVE A VIABLE BISEXUAL LIFESTYLE?
When you are actually living bisexually, this often looks like the wrong question. One knows so many couples who have split up because he has fallen for another woman or she for another man it sometimes looks as if it is exclusive heterosexuality which is incompatible with a viable lifestyle.
What makes bisexuality seem more problematic than either straightforward straightness or gayness is its conflict with the monogamous tradition enshrined in our culture. How can you really love a person if it turns out you also love somebody else? Even if you think you can, how can either of your partners agree to be shared like this?
For many people, it is the simultaneity of the two loves which is the stumbling block. A kind of serial bisexuality, where a fellow loves a man for a time, then switches to a woman for a time, does not raise the same kind of problems because it resembles the familiar situation where a man decides he no longer loves his wife and leaves her in favour of another woman. The only difference in the serial bisexual case is the gender switch when the partners change. The principle which maintains you only love one person at a time is not violated.
We now have to look rather carefully at that principle. If you can only really love one person at a time, how can a parent love a partner as well as a child, or vice versa? For some, the answer seems to be it can't be done: a husband complains to his wife "you've never had much time for me since little Johnny (or Jenny) arrived." For most, fortunately, there is no problem at all: the child is the fruit of a joint love and is the recipient of that same love.
When there is more than one child, how can a parent love all of them? Again, for some parents, the answer is they can't; they unashamedly have favourites. You hear things like, "I've always loved Jane but I've never felt close to Michael". This may be honest, but it isn't much fun for the child or children who get left out. Fortunately most parents see each of their children as unique individuals, delight in their uniqueness, and love each of them without ever attempting to allocate their love on some kind of graduated scale.
Whilst all this may be true, there are still many people who strongly feel sexual love is different. They claim it is, by its very nature, so very total and intimate it simply cannot be shared. Once passion loses its single focus, it either gets intolerably diluted or spawns corrosive jealousies.
This implies sexual love is always the same thing.
But this is absurd. We all know it isn't. To start with, a good deal of sex does not have much to do with love at all. A fellow wanking on his own for instance is doing something undeniably sexual but not necessarily anything which has to do with love - though it may have, depending on who or what he is thinking about at the time.
This first way of differentiating sex, what used to be thought of as the difference between love and lust, is in fact the way many men justify their extra-marital sex to themselves: sex with the wife is lovemaking; anything else is just sex. A problem about this is, insofar as these men are being honest with themselves, they are condemning all their other partners to a very truncated kind of sexual encounter and denying themselves anything beyond physical need and relief.
Some men who live bisexually adopt this kind of stance. They have accepted the fact that, although they are happily married (or partnered) they do sometimes crave another prick. But they are anxious to convince themselves and their male partners this is all they crave; they will not give or receive kisses, strokes, hugs or terms of endearment when with another man.
The distinction between love and lust may fairly accurately describe some kinds of extra-marital sex, but it has decided limitations if pushed too far. Is it not rather strange to make a virtue of the withholding of love, even if designed to safeguard a kind of semi-fidelity to one's cohabiting partner?
Virtually all men will admit there are times when the urge for sex is so strong, the absence or non-availability of lovers so acutely felt, almost anything short of rape will do.
But most men know the almost desperate kind of casual sex will not do very much for them and they try to arrange their lives in such a way they are driven to it as rarely as possible. They are very aware, although sex of this kind has the advantage over solitary wanking of providing the excitement of another human body, it has the big disadvantage of trying to treat another person as just a body. In terms of a total sex-life, such episodes may furnish an occasional garnish to the regular diet, never a satisfying meal.
Admittedly, there are men, some of them living bisexually, who constantly deny themselves and their partners the satisfaction of a complete sexual meal. They will have nothing to do with emotional involvement or relational commitment; all they want is constant variety, always at a narrowly physical level.
Most men find this kind of denial very puzzling and can only account for it in would-be partners by supposing it betokens some deep, unresolved psycho-sexual conflict. How can you live on a constant succession of snacks, however tasty? Won't they wreck your appetite for a square meal or, better, a regular diet of square meals, if and when the opportunity to sit down to them presents itself? A snack is a snack, handy when needed, but not a diet to live on. The only possible satisfaction of such an obsessive promiscuity is that it enables its more successful practitioners to notch up their 'conquests' and count bodies, much as a miser counts coins.
The kind of married bisexual man who claims to have 'loving sex' with his wife, as opposed to 'just sex' with the occasional male 'on the side', is in an intermediate position. According to his claim, sex with the wife is on an altogether more exalted plane than his excursions into malesex. Whilst the first is tender and loving, involving his total self, the second is "nasty, brutish and short", just to satisfy a fleeting physical craving.
Most of the married bisexual men with whom I have been involved have wanted, and been happy to give, a good deal more than this: sex which is also loving. They find no difficulty about loving their wives and also loving their chosen male friends at the same time.
Men who live in this way have learned that sex which is really loving does not need to be exclusive, along the lines of the "forsaking all other" vow in the traditional Christian marriage service, but it does need to keep itself within the bounds of the possible.
My own experience suggests there is still a good deal of confusion about all this, much of it the inevitable consequence of having shuffled out of the old sexual straitjacket without any clear guidelines about how best to exploit our new freedom.
If we have learned anything about sex over the past few decades, it is this: people cannot simply be classed as male or female, then be expected all to conform to the same rigid gender stereotype. Temperaments, physiques, sex drives, sexual biographies, conditions of work, geography, climate, these and many other factors vary enormously. How could a truck driver, on the road for days at a stretch, adopt the same pattern of sex as a bank clerk who lives at home? How likely is it an Eskimo will have evolved the same kind of sexual rhythm as an Amerinidian? If even identical twins are never exactly identical, we should be prepared for much wider variation between people of disparate backgrounds; the kind of sex-life which may work extremely well for one person may be a non-starter for another.
Allowing for this range of variation, I have been surprised to discover how many men there are whose sexuality and lifestyle are, in broad outline, similar to my own. To the casual observer, we look like ordinary married men, most of us with families. We feel ourselves to be perfectly normal, having no desire to hit the headlines or be saddled with notoriety. Yet many of the people who take it for granted we are just like themselves would get quite a shock if they knew that we enjoy spending some of our time in bed with another man or men. In quite a few cases, the wives or heterosexual partners of these men would be even more shocked if they knew what was going on.
This absence of sexual candour within a marriage may seem reprehensible but I for one would concede it could be very difficult, perhaps even unwise, for a man to tell his female partner about his male partner(s) if she has been nursing the illusion - which probably at one time was no illusion - she has his sexual self all to herself. Suddenly having to make such a radical reappraisal of the man she thought she knew so well could cause the relationship to fall apart. Even if that did not happen, she could abruptly feel herself to be completely isolated because, when she looks around her, she can see no other husbands like her own, seemingly wanting the best of both worlds. It may take some time before she realises her own husband probably does not look the way she now knows he is when viewed by their friends. Maybe some of those other husbands are remarkably like hers! Having come to this realisation, she may then feel relieved that the hidden side of her husband and possibly some other husbands she knows does not seem to prevent them from functioning in the ‘normal’ way.
I was fortunate in being able to tell my wife about my predominantly gay drive before we even got engaged. I got to know her well enough during our courtship to know that, although she might be surprised by this news, she would not be unduly shocked.
Being able to put my cards on the table certainly did not solve all problems, but it did have the great gain of freeing me from the worry of having kept quiet about something about me I knew to be so important. The fact of my inherent gayness would never came at her like a bolt from the blue. Our big surprise was the eventual realisation, although sex had worked out beautifully within the marriage, the gay side of me was not going to go away. Sooner or later it was going to demand satisfaction.
It is very hard for a wife not to feel this as some kind of slight. How is it possible, when sex is going so well, when you both so thoroughly enjoy each other's company, feel so completely at home with each other, take such delight in your children and your shared interests, how is it possible this other thing can threaten to come between you? In a situation where people were far more clued up about sexuality and its complexities, feelings like these would be avoided, but we still have a long way to go before that situation arrives.
As things are at present, even when a wife has known all along her husband finds men sexually attractive, she is likely to be both surprised and disappointed to discover their love for each other has not relegated his homosexual cravings to history. She had hoped to be able to regard his homosexuality as just an unhappy phase of his development which her love had vanquished for ever. The husbands too have almost certainly shared this hope.
What such couples will hopefully go on to discover is that this other love he yearns for does not reflect on her at all. He is not finding her inadequate in any way; she is giving him everything a woman ever could give him; on that score he is totally satisfied. But he also needs what only a man can give him. If he can fulfil that need, so far from taking him away from her, it will complete him for her, making him a far more rounded and happy partner than he could ever have hoped to be otherwise.
To return to the gastronomic analogy, nobody suggests, if you start eating an apple with relish after eating a pork pie, you have suddenly and puzzlingly renounced pork pies in favour of apples. Everybody understands and sympathises with the need for a balanced diet where food is concerned, so why should a desire to strike a similar kind of sexual balance be thought so strange?
The beauty of a bisexual lifestyle is it introduces a far more important sexual distinction than that between love and lust: the difference in the way it feels to love two genders. As the previous chapter will have made clear, these two kinds of love, whilst they have quite a lot in common, also have some important differences. This means there is very little risk the one mode of loving will get in the way of the other or try to usurp its place. Loving a man may not be quite as different from loving a woman as a pork pie is from an apple, but the two modes of loving live extremely well together and make an equally balanced meal.
Having said this, it would be remarkable if a couple living together heterosexually were both able to accept the active bisexuality of one or both of them as if it were the most natural and welcome thing in the world. Inherited ideas about gender roles and what constitutes a 'proper marriage' are unlikely to be thrown off in five minutes. It takes time to come to terms with the reality of the situation and to discover that, far from being a disaster, it is actually an improvement on most conventional ideas about marriage.
If it is possible for both partners to come to an acceptance of the active bisexuality of at least one of them, knowing neither partner's sexuality is getting bottled up or distorted, the bonds of love which bind the family close together are all the stronger for not becoming chains which imprison.
If there are children who enjoy a rich relationship with their parents, and if, as they grow, they become aware of the way their parents' relationship works, this will radically affect their own ideas about gender and influence their own sexual relationships.
What are the basic requirements for any pattern of bisexual living which deserves to be designated a 'lifestyle'.
Honesty is probably what matters most in the long run. There is no satisfactory reason why anybody should try to force himself into a shape which distorts or masks his real nature. "But I need to do this in order to hold down my job", like other similar pleas, is not a good reason for becoming a bogus person.
This applies both ways. A man who tries to act bisexual merely in order to click with his friends or be in with a trend is being as dishonest as the man who strenuously tries to deny his bisexuality although he knows it is there.
This honesty should be a little more than skin deep. If we badly want to believe something about ourselves because it would be convenient or less scary to believe it, we are quite capable of overlooking or suppressing some of the crucial evidence. We should be aware of pressures upon us to conform to what is socially approved and be prepared to resist those pressures the moment we are convinced our survival as authentic people depends on that resistance.
So far as other people are concerned, we should not be dishonest but we should have some care not to "frighten the horses". We need to cultivate good judgement about how much self-disclosure is required in a given situation or with a given person. Your own wife, for instance, may appreciate knowing the truth about your sexuality and being given the opportunity to understand how you really tick, but she may make it clear she does not want to be treated to any blow-by-blow accounts of what goes on between you and the men in your life. It is easier to live and let live if any borders one puts up around one's life are respected.
Closely allied to honesty is integrity and fidelity. 'Being unfaithful' does not mean having more than one love in your life; it means being untrustworthy - saying one thing and doing another, lying, being deceitful, being totally unpredictable and unreliable. If you want to be trusted, you have to be worthy of trust.
Perhaps the most important additional qualification for anybody wanting a viable bisexual lifestyle is clarity about what is and isn't possible.
If you are cohabiting with a woman and having (or hoping to have) children with her, that is a commitment. It does not have to be all-embracing but it should not be underestimated. You have to work out, in relation to any other projected sexual or emotional involvement, whether or not it is consistent with that central commitment. The third person also needs to be involved in this process. At the end of the day you may have to conclude: “Yes, if human life were not limited in the ways it is, what we hoped for could have been wonderful; as it is, it just isn't possible“.
The same limitations apply to all other extra-marital relationships. You can sustain a number of low-key relationships simultaneously which are understood on all sides to be strictly limited in their scope but, if you want to foster one or two really rich, in-depth relationships with men as well as with your female partner, they must have priority over these more peripheral friendships. There should be no problem about this so long as everybody knows where they are.
There is something in most of us which resists all this talk of viability. It is this which gives the great tragedies like Romeo and Juliet and its modern counterpart, West Side Story, their appeal. We respect the love which is tragically 'impossible', which bursts the bounds of conventionality, which finally comes to grief, yet which leaves the rest of us feeling relatively small and ashamed. In the long run, such a love can become a ferment for change in social attitudes.
But nobody in his senses wills a tragedy. The kind of tragedy just mentioned happens because of the clash between social prejudice and bigotry on the one hand, and individual hopes and loves on the other. The quality of the tragedy depends on what this clash does to and for the parties involved in it.
There is nothing tragic or magnificent about failing to come to terms with oneself or the limitations of the human condition. It may be sad to see somebody nursing a death-wish or a totally anarchic rage or lapsing into alcoholism or compulsive smoking or drugs, but it is hardly tragic.
Generally speaking, if people say they enjoy life, we expect their lifestyles to be of the kind which enables them to go on enjoying it. Where that is not the case, we can be pretty certain something has gone badly wrong.
9: HOW LONG HAS BISEXUALITY BEEN AROUND?
The basic problem about hard evidence for something's having been around for a long time is that, before people learned to write, or even to use some kind of pictograph, the only evidence to survive is their tools, rudimentary dwellings, and so forth. These obviously tell us nothing about the sexual activities of the people who made them.
The problem that people are in any case not very forthcoming about their sex lives is not acute in the ancient world, since the concept of sex as an intimate, personal, private affair is a much later arrival. It is the prudery of later ages which has broken phalluses off ancient statues or relegated them to a 'restricted' collection in a museum.
Phallicism of one sort or another was everywhere in evidence in the ancient world. The most extensive ancient structures in the world are those at Karnak, near Luxor, in Egypt. They range in date from around 1950 BC right up to the Christian era, when no further additions to the complex were made. Modern archaeological study of them began with a French team led by Napoleon in 1797. The Victorians were decidedly embarrassed by their findings and did their best to censor or suppress them.
Only recently has it become generally known that this vast complex of temples centred around a secret series of rites dedicated to the god Amun, who was regarded as the creator of the entire cosmos. These rites included one which was performed annually by the Pharaoh himself in strict privacy, even his high priest, normally in charge of the temple cultus, being excluded from it.
The remarkable thing about the Amun cult was that it pictured the process of creation sometimes as an act of solitary wanking on Amun's part or, in one case, of auto-insemination: there is a stone carving depicting the god with his head and shoulders on the ground and the rest of his body curved up and round so he can swallow his own semen. Hands and pricks adorn parts of the temple on all sides, except where they have been defaced or broken by outraged Christian invaders after the fourth century A.D. The only parts of war victims' bodies to be retained by the Egyptians were their hands and their genitals - the parts which were especially sacred to the god Amun himself [<>I owe this information to a TV documentary, Amun and Hidden Phallic Rites, which detailed recent archaeological discoveries at this site].
One can say this preoccupation with the male organ was just part of a sacred cultus which was not regarded as sexual in the ordinary sense, but this is hardly convincing. However sacred a cultus, if sex is at its heart, it cannot cease to be sexy. In this instance, the ethos is decidedly homosexy. It was presumably men who depicted all these pricks and balls on the temple walls. They seem to have done so with considerable enthusiasm and without any inclination to set them in a heterosexual context.
What follows is only the barest summary of the other evidence. Those in search of more detailed information should consult the massive seven-volume work of Havelock Ellis, which, thanks to the admirable Project Gutenberg, was made available on the Internet in September, 2004. [This is the 1927 edition, a much extended version of the work originally written during the 1890s although organized in just five volumes.] After a court case the original edition was judged to be obscene and banned in Britain. Although published in the United States, it was only legally available to the medical profession until 1935. Now it has become generally accessible it will be increasingly recognised for what it is - a monumental, awesomely erudite trail-blazing study. The whole work is titled Studies in the Psychology of Sex. It is the second volume which deals with male homosexuality and bisexuality, including a historical and geographical survey of the whole field.
The bisexuality of ancient Greek civilization is now so well-known it need not be dwelt on. It has, in any case, been carefully documented by the Cambridge historian James Dover in his book, Greek Homosexuality [<>published jointly by Cambridge and Harvard University Presses in 1989]. This covers the six centuries between the eighth and the second BC. In a subsequent television documentary, Dover admitted 'bisexuality' is a much less misleading description of the Greek phenomenon than 'homosexuality', since most of the men who were such fervent lovers of their boy-pupils were also respectably married men, regarded as pillars of their society. Doubters should read Lovers' Legends - the Gay Greek Myths as restored and retold by Andrew Calimach, Haiduk Press, 2002. There you will learn things you were never told at school about such heroes as Orpheus and Hercules and also you will catch the flavour of Greek ideas about sex, love and beauty.
It is worth remembering that in Greek society athleticism and eroticism were very much twinned. Our word 'gymnastics' derives from the Greek gumnos, meaning 'naked', a reminder that all Greek sport was done in the nude. A Greek male could and did contemplate the male form at leisure, with no holds barred, as is evident in Greek vase paintings and sculpture, to say nothing of the homo-erotic literature.
Roman culture was largely imitative of the Greek model so this too attached high significance to male-male friendships and sexual relationships. But since the Roman male was more aware of his role as custodian of imperial power than the Greeks were, he tended to have a harsher temperament and a more down-to-earth set of priorities. Yet Cicero, in his high-minded dissertation on Friendship, concedes:
It must be observed that love is a leading and essential principle in constituting that particular species of benevolence which is termed amity; and although this sentiment may be feigned, indeed, by the followers of those who are courted merely with a view to interest, yet it cannot possibly be produced by a motive of interest alone. There is a truth and simplicity in genuine friendship, an unconstrained and spontaneous emotion, altogether incompatible with every kind of and degree of artifice and simulation [<>Cicero, Laelius: an essay on Friendship, tr. W. Melmoth (electronic version)].
With due respect to Cicero and his kind, it has to be said, if Roman sex was rarely as 'straight' as a Roman road, it did often seem to lack heart and grace when compared with the Greek model.
India is heir to one of the oldest and most stable civilizations on earth and one which has, from the very earliest times, shown a lively preoccupation with sex, especially male sex. Shiva (with Vishnu, the most venerated of all the gods) is symbolised by his lingam [prick], sometimes in stylised form, but sometimes very naturalistically, as on the statue of Shiva now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. [<>A photograph of this can be seen as Plate 54 in J.C. Harle’s Gupta Sculpture, Oxford University Press, 1974]
Dr. Trilik Chandra Majupuria gives an entertaining account [<>quoted from his web-page entitled Brahma the god of creation] of the origin of the lingam myth in the Puranas:
.....In the beginning, the legend goes, the universe was a vast ocean, with the earth immersed in its depths. There was total darkness. At that time a dispute arose between Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma claimed that he was the creator and protector of the world. Vishnu said that he was the creator and destroyer of all beings. The debate became heated, each arrogantly trying to establish his superiority over the other. At that time a lingam (the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva) appeared between the two, in the form of light. The lingam was dazzling and beautiful, and soon started growing longer, stretching into the water and into the sky. Brahma and Vishnu started to run away, but a celestial voice spoke, saying that he who would find the beginning or the end of this glowing lingam would be superior of the two.
Brahma flew up to the heaven of Golok, where he met Kamdhenu, the celestial cow. Brahma told her that he sought the origin of the lingam of light. Kamdhenu said it was impossible to find the source of such greatness. In despair, Brahma decided to tell a lie, and persuaded Kamdhenu and three deities to serve as his witnesses. Vishnu drove into the netherworld to find the root of the celestial light. Reaching the depths, he met Anant, the Lord of Serpents. Anant said that the celestial light was the lingam of Shiva and one could never find its root.
When the gods returned, Brahma claimed he had found the top. Kamdhenu supported Brahma's statement by nodding her head, while at the same time shaking her tail, saying no. Vishnu frankly admitted his inability to find the root of the lingam.
In spite of the fact that Shiva's lingam is probably the most prominent feature of popular Hinduism, especially in the South and Centre, as is evidenced by the famous Lingaraja temple at Bhubaneswar in Orissa, where the central tower, and all the subsidiary towers, are in the shape of gigantic pricks, each capped by a stylised glans, it was possible for Dr. A.L.Basham to say:
The erotic life of ancient India was generally heterosexual. Homosexualism of both sexes was not wholly unknown; it is condemned briefly in the lawbooks, and the Kamasutra treats of it, but cursorily and with little enthusiasm. Literature almost ignores it. In this respect ancient India was far healthier than most other ancient cultures [<>A. L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, Fontana Ancient History, 1971, p.173].
This is an interesting statement from a few points of view. First, it concedes homosexuality was very much in evidence in 'ancient cultures'; second, it contains a typical Western value judgement about 'homosexualism'; third, it overlooks the fact India has always been reticent about any aspect of sex in its literature and polite conversation but singularly without hang-ups when it comes to its practice, provided certain caste guidelines are not infringed.
What the Kamasutra actually says about sex between males is:
The male servants of some men carry on the mouth congress with their masters. It is also practised by some citizens, who know each other well, among themselves. Some women of the harem, when they are amorous, do the acts of the mouth on the yonis [<>yoni is sanskrit for cunt] of one another, and some men do the same thing with women. ...... there are some men, some places and some times, with respect to which these practices can be made use of. A man should therefore pay regard to the place, to the time, and to the practice which is to be carried out, as also as to whether it is agreeable to his nature and to himself, and then he may or may not practice these things according to circumstances. But after all, these things being done secretly, and the mind of the man being fickle, how can it be known what any particular person will do at any particular time and for any particular purpose? [<>Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra (trans. Richard Burton), part 2, chapter 9].
This passage is totally non-judgemental and typical of the Indian genius for relaxed under-statement in these matters. A modern example of it occurs in Vikram Seth's hugely successful novel, A Suitable Boy. Ostensibly, the theme of the novel is the search of a well-to-do Indian mother for a suitable husband for her daughter. But the undercurrent, running right through the novel is the friendship between Hindu, Maan Kapoor, and Muslim, Firoz Khan.
This is a massive novel, running to well over 1300 pages, but only at one point do we learn this is actually a sexual friendship. The two friends are in bed together when Maan's former friendship with the Rajkumar of Marh is mentioned and provokes a hostile reaction from Firoz:
'Firoz!' laughed Maan, turning towards him. 'All that is over. We were just kids. Don't tell me you're jealous.’
'Well, as you once said, I never tell you anything.'
'Oh?' said Maan, rolling over on his side towards his friend, and taking him in his arms.
'I thought you were sleepy,' said Firoz, smiling to himself in the dark.
'So I am,' said Maan. 'But so what?'
Firoz began to laugh quietly. 'You'll think I've planned all this.'
'Well, perhaps you have,' said Maan. 'But I don't mind,' he added with a small sigh as he passed a hand through Firoz's hair
[<>Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy, Phoenix House/QPD, 1993, chap 14.20, p.1006].
That is all. We are left to read between the lines. Vikram Seth himself, incidentally, has always been quite open about his own bisexuality, even talking about it quite easily with his father in a recent TV documentary.
It would be impossible in a book of this compass to go the rounds of the world's cultures in order to demonstrate how, from the earliest times we can know about, there has been a perennial fascination with the male organ, often in conjunction with the female organ in the context of fertility cults but sometimes, as at Karnak and Bhubaneswar, in solitary splendour - and put there, not by women, but by men. One could give examples of this preoccupation in classical Chinese and Japanese culture, as in most remote tribal cultures, some of which have persisted, with very little change, right up to the present [<>For a brief survey of many African tribal patterns of bisexuality, see Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roskam (accessible on the Internet). As with James Dover's book about Greece, the title is misleading since much of the material deals with bisexual rather than exclusively homosexual situations].
One of the most striking examples was quoted by Germaine Greer in her book about the politics of human fertility entitled, Sex and Destiny. She refers to an anthropological study of the Etoro peoples of New Guinea by Raymond C. Kelly [<>Witchcraft and Social Relations, published in Man and Woman in the New Guinea Highlands, Washington, 1976, pp.40-45]. Amongst these people, heterosexual sex is prohibited for between 205 and 260 days each year, whilst sex between men and boys is positively encouraged. As Greer explains,
...mature men help boys to develop manly characteristics by 'inseminating them', which is a rather prudish way of saying that they have the boys swallow their semen:
'A youth is continually inseminated from about age ten until he reaches his early to mid twenties.' [Kelly]
There are no prohibitions of any kind upon this altruistic form of intercourse which has clearly beneficial effects, for the beardless boy of ten becomes bigger and stronger, as long as he continues to consume the semen of his elders.
'Man and boys may properly engage in sexual relations in the men's section of the longhouse (and in gardens) on any day of the year.' [Kelly]
What is not clear from Raymond Kelly's account is whether the practice of insemination is carried out in a perfunctory way or whether there is any erotic context or any celebration of intimacy or homosexual incest prohibitions or any attachment to one boy in particular, but what emerges with great clarity is that .... for the Etoro it is heterosexual contact which effeminises, homosexual contact which masculinises [<>Germaine Greer, Sex and Destiny, Secker and Warburg, 1984, pp.122f].
The most visible manifestation in Britain of this universal preoccupation with prick in the ancient world is the famous chalk giant at Cerne Abbas. This figure is outlined by a trench, one foot thick, cut into the underlying chalk. The man depicted is 180 feet tall and, in his right hand, he brandishes an enormous knobbed club, which is itself 120 feet long. His central feature however is a huge erection, towering above two equally impressive balls. It is interesting, amidst the other dimensions given for the figure, we are given no information about the precise size of this brazenly rampant prick. Everybody admits it is the giant's dominant feature, but it seems nobody wants to admit to having actually measured it!
There is no certainty about the age of the giant. According to one theory, he depicts the Roman god Hercules and dates back to the second century A.D. Another theory suggests a less reputable origin. In the civil war of 1644-60, the local estate was apparently badly mismanaged by the owner's steward and it is suggested his servants cut this figure to mock their master during this period of general chaos. The giant's first appearance in the records is in 1694, when the local churchwarden was paid the sum of three shillings in payment for re-cutting the figure.
It has even been suggested the figure was cut by monks from the local abbey as a joke against their abbot. At any rate, the figure has been re-cut a number of times since the seventeenth century and his phallic dimensions altered (or even totally censored) from time to time. Mercifully, the giant is now in the safe keeping of the National Trust and his endowment restored to what is thought to be its original dimensions.
How long, then, has bisexuality been around? All we can say with certainty about the earliest known period of human history is, wherever we care to look, there is evidence of considerable male preoccupation with cocks, more especially pricks, and balls, often in a context which seems unrelated to fertility cults.
In the monotheistic cultures - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - but most clearly in the Christian tradition, and in all the other cultures which have been colonised by nations within the monotheistic tradition, the dogma has been: sex is the divinely ordained means of procreation.
There has been a sliding scale of condemnation for sexual practices which divorce sex from this divinely ordained function, the greatest condemnation being reserved for anything of a homosexual nature, especially anal sex, which is still often referred to by the biblical term, sodomy. The whole non-reproductive aspect of sexual life has thus been driven underground throughout most of the period when the monotheistic traditions held sway.
There is abundant evidence the Church had a constant struggle trying to maintain its position and resorted to all kinds of strange arguments, even the rules of grammar, to try to reinforce it. The twelfth century French monk, Alain of Lille, in his Complaint of Nature [<>De Planctu Natura trans. D.M. Moffat, Yale 1908, pp.37,51] first pictures Nature bewailing the shocking immorality of the times:
And many other youths, clothed by my favour with noble beauty .. have turned their hammers of love to the office of anvils. Such a great body of foul men roam and riot along the breadth of the whole earth by whose seducing contact chastity itself is poisoned. Of some of these men who profess the grammar of love, some embrace only the masculine gender, some the feminine, others the common or indiscriminate.
Alain then proposes Nature's grammatical remedy:
For if the masculine gender by some violent and reasonless reasoning should demand a like gender the relation of that connection could not justify its vice by any beauty of figure, but would be disgraced as an inexcusable solecism. .... my command enjoined that [one should].. have regard to the ordinary rules for nouns and adjectives, and that ..organ which is especially marked with the peculiarity of the feminine sex [be appointed] to the office of noun and .. that organ characterized by the signs of the masculine sex in the seat of the adjective. Thus should it be that neither the adjective should be able to fall into the place of the noun, nor should the noun move into the region of the adjective.
In spite of these scholastic and ecclesiastical attempts to uphold the strict, monogamous, heterosexual principle, many of the most illustrious names in British literary history - Shakespeare, Byron and Wilde spring to mind - were bisexual, though of these three, Byron fled to Europe in order to escape censure and a possible death sentence and Wilde settled in France when he was released from prison. In recent years, it has also emerged that many great British men of science, philosophy and music have nourished a more-than-passing fondness for their own kind, including Alan Turing, the 'father of the computer' and the man most instrumental in cracking the German 'enigma' code in the 1940s. Turing was found dead with a poisoned, half-eaten apple beside his bed. Nobody can be certain about how he died.
Until homosexual acts between consenting adult males in private were taken off the statute books in 1967, and especially before the Labouchère Amendment of 1885, whenever homosexual acts were taken to court, they tended to be acts of 'sodomy' or 'buggery' (a term which appears to have some obscure connection with Bulgaria).
As we have so insisted, anal sex is NOT homosexual sex since it does not necessarily involve two persons of the same gender and, even when it does, the genitals of one of the parties are redundant; they may come into play, but they are not essential to the act itself. In spite of this, there is almost a conspiracy in some quarters to make the practice of anal sex almost synonymous with the word 'gay'.
The truly homosexual impulse, whether between men or between women, centres on the genitals of their own gender and seeks, by genital interaction with others of the same gender, to develop a same-sex intimacy which often goes on to include every other aspect of personality.
It is this preoccupation with same-sex genitals which is so strikingly evident at Luxor, Bhubaneswar, in classical Greece and Rome, in ancient China and Japan, at virtually every point in Africa where ancient traditions and customs survive, in the Pacific Islands, in Latin America - virtually anywhere we care to look, just so long as evidence has survived.
Whenever we know enough about the lifestyles of the people who left us this evidence, we know they were, overwhelmingly, bisexual. Most people in the ancient world got married and had children, although a few seem to have opted for an exclusively homosexual lifestyle. But most of the men who got married made no attempt to disguise their sexual interest in other men and were not censured by their societies when they did something about it.
10: HOW HAS BISEXUALITY FARED MORE RECENTLY?
When I first sat down to try to answer this question, the twentieth century had just drawn to its close. It was an amazing century, changing the planet in more ways and with greater rapidity than all the preceding centuries put together.
It had also been a terrible century. The first half of it was scarred by two cataclysmic European wars. Between them, they changed for ever the nature and scale of war itself. The second half of the century began in a state of Cold War which, by an ominous stockpiling of nuclear warheads, kept Europe from a hot war, but not the rest of the world. There was Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, the Gulf, and innumerable lesser wars, savage attempts at genocide in Campuchia, many parts of Africa, Bosnia, Chechenya, formidable ethnic conflicts in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East - and so on; a complete catalogue would be impossible and dreadfully depressing. In this century we have had the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ominous nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea and the dreadful implosion of Syria in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’.
Apart from all this military mayhem, we have seen some alarming signs of looming ecological tragedy, if not downright disaster, caused by deforestation on a massive scale, depletion of the ozone layer, heavy pollution of urban areas and rural waterways, irresponsible fishing in non-territorial waters - and so on.
The most hopeful thing one can say at this stage is that half a century of European peace, allied to a gigantic leap in technological capability, has given us the opportunity and, increasingly, the will, to confront the problems we have created and, so far as possible, to solve them.
All of this might seem irrelevant to a book about bisexuality, but it isn't.
It is high time we realised that sex is not only what landed us on the planet in the first place, but is also the central driving force throughout our life span on the planet. Unless we can get our thought and practice about sex right, there is little chance of getting anything else right.
This is well illustrated in the life and writing of Georges Duhamel. Born in Paris in 1884, Duhamel followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a doctor, but also a writer. He served in the medical corps in World War I, at the end of which he wrote a book of short stories entitled Civilization, 1914-1918 [<>available on-line, translated by W.D. Thevenin] which drew on his front line experiences.
The fourth story in the collection, Lieutenant Dauche, is narrated by an officer who has been wounded in the shoulder and been sent to the Chateau de S. to convalesce. He shares a room with Dauche, who has an apparently trivial wound in the forehead. Reticent at first, the narrator gradually gets into conversation with this companion. He discovers he is married with two children and was born in Lille, as was the narrator, who is not named but whom we shall call N.
The more he gets to know Dauche, the more N. grows to like him:
So it was with a trembling joy that I recognised in Dauche those qualities which my nature... requires in order to feel affection. I believe there is a deep predestination in this: the men of today who can become my friends are, all over the world, stamped, marked with the same mysterious sign; but I shall not know them all and fate will never perhaps take the trouble to let me meet my best friend.
As the friendship develops, the doctor in charge of these officers confides to N. that Dauche's wound, which he himself thinks a mere scratch, is in fact a death warrant because a shell fragment lodged in his head has proved immovable. He instructs N. not to allow Dauche to do anything too strenuous when they go off walking together.
N., in despair, tries to tell himself the doctor is mistaken, but deep down knows his friendship with Dauche, which has transformed his life, is doomed:
I realized this perfectly when Dauche asked me one day why I stayed so long in the army zone. I made up a reply in which I dwelt on our genuine friendship... The affection I felt for Dauche had not ceased to grow...and the certainty that a near death awaited him had helped to exalt it not a little.
A month or so later, the two of them go for a walk in the pine woods near Rheims and sit on a tree stump to rest and chat:
...suddenly I knew that something was going on behind me. Then my heart began to beat madly, for it could be nothing but that terrifying and expected event.
And that it was.
...Dauche had slipped down from the tree-trunk. I hardly recognised him: his whole body shook with a hideous, inhuman trembling, such as one sees in animals that have been struck down with the mallet at the slaughter-house. His hands and feet were twitching as if in a convulsive struggle. His purple face was twisted toward his right shoulder. His mouth dribbled and his eyes showed only their whites.
When I recall that sight I feel a sort of shame. I had often seen death, and the war had made me live in a horrible intimacy with it, but I had never seen anything so ugly or so bestial... I escaped from my trance, and set about carrying what had once been my friend away from that spot.
With great difficulty N. manages to carry his friend, still technically alive although in such a pitiable state, back to the Chateau:
I laid the body on the ground, knelt beside it, my face streaming with sweat, and said: "There he is". Then I began to weep.
Dauche dies a day or two later and is buried in the local cemetery:
I could not make up my mind to go and visit him there. I bore within myself a tomb that was deeper and more actual.
I left the Chateau de S. toward the middle of December. I had grown weak and thin, full of lassitude at the thought that I must still pursue my own life, still struggle for my life and my death.
The final story in the collection, itself titled Civilization, tells of the disgust and revulsion of a young industrial lab assistant who is now a sergeant in charge of a pathetic group of stretcher-bearers who wear themselves out struggling to salvage as many wounded soldiers as they can from a huge and growing pile of mutilated manhood. Here is his verdict on it all:
I hate the twentieth century, as I hate rotten Europe and the whole world on which this wretched Europe is spread out like a great spot of axle-grease.. I shall go to the mountains and arrange it so that I shall be as much alone as possible.
He goes on to despair of the culture which has spawned all this carnage:
Civilization! the true Civilization - I often think of it. It is like a choir of harmonious voices chanting a hymn in my heart... it is a man saying, "love one another!" and "Return good for evil!" But for nearly two thousand years people have done nothing but repeat these things over and over, and the princes and the priests have far too many interests in the age as it is to conceive other things like them. ....... I tell you truly, civilization is not in that object any more than it is in the shining pincers that the surgeons use. Civilization is not in all that terrible pack of trumpery wares; and if it is not in the heart of man, well! it's nowhere.
Particularly in these two stories, Duhamel speaks for the whole twentieth century. It seems scarcely credible in this supposed age of enlightenment, with our concern for human rights, animal welfare, the handicapped, and so on, Europe got itself and much of the rest of the world embroiled in such an insane orgy of death and destruction, not once only, but twice - and, the second time, in a way which involved the civilian population in the slaughter almost as much as the fighting forces.
Even now, we again and again have to watch soul-destroying news coverage of women and children being blasted by shells and bombs, endless convoys of skeletal old folk and children who have been made refugees after most of the menfolk have been slaughtered, the ghastly sight of people who are so near to death their fleshless limbs can scarcely move and their swollen eyes register nothing but a listless terror.
In 1916, in the middle of the first World War, E.F.Benson published a school story entitled David Blaize [available on-line]. Benson's father had been Archbishop of Canterbury. His big brother, A.C. Benson had written 'Land of Hope and Glory', part of his Coronation Ode for Edward VII in 1902, which was set to Elgar's first Pomp and Circumstance march, .
When we first meet David, he is at prep school, looking forward to going on to Marchester where his great friend, Hughes, has gone a year ahead of him. When he gets to the public school, along with Bags, his other great friend, he is disappointed to find Hughes seems to have gone into a sharp decline. He tells Bags:
Hughes used to be a ripper, but he's different somehow now. He asked me the other day if Maddox had become a saint, and if I'd converted him. What the devil was he talking about? I don't like Hughes as much as I used. He told some filthy tale in the dormitory the other night...
Maddox, although Hughes has hinted otherwise, is another matter altogether. Three years older than David, he is worshipped by the younger boy, who has become his fag. Maddox casts his spell because of his prowess as school cricket captain and his qualities of leadership generally; he is also extremely handsome. Then something happens which breaks the spell.
David has forgotten to fill Maddox's kettle as he usually does and is enjoying a bath. As he dries himself, whistling cheerily, Maddox, whose study is next door to the bathroom, decides to creep in and sit close beside his unsuspecting fag:
In a minute David's head was sufficiently dry to satisfy him, and it emerged from its towel. He looked round astonished to find anyone there, for Bags had gone.
"Hullo, Maddox!" he said.
"Yes: got to fill my kettle myself," he said.
David jumped up.
"I say, I'm awfully sorry," he said. "I bang forgot. Give it me!"
But Maddox still held it, looking at him.
"Oh, it doesn't matter," he said. "Just having a bath, were you?"
David paused. There was Maddox only looking at him, only smiling. But instantly he had some sense of choking discomfort. He looked back at him, frowning and puzzled, and his sense of discomfort hugely increased. He merely wanted to get away.
"Oh then, I think I'll go and dress," he said hurriedly, and, picking up his sponge, left the room and ran away down the dark passage to his dormitory.
Maddox quickly regrets having made this pass. He did not actually say anything but David clearly got the message. He returns to his room and sits brooding. David is not just his fag; he is also his friend and he has been delighted at the way the friendship has been progressing. He has done everything he can to protect David from what he regards as undesirable influences, like the time he caught Hughes sitting on David's bed and shooed him off. Now he has himself thrown all that to the wind and he is overcome with self-hatred.
For a time David steers clear of Maddox unless there is somebody else around. He arranges to become another senior boy's fag. When they do next meet in private, Maddox apologises for the bathroom incident. David mumbles something about its being all right, then beats a hasty retreat. But he decides to retrace his steps and go back to Maddox's study because he too wants to repair the breach in their friendship:
"I don't know why I went away," he said, "or why I was frightened when you said I needn't be. So -- so I came back. Sorry."
Then he had the instant reward of his confidence. He saw Maddox look up at him with unashamed eyes of affection. He came and stood close to him.
The friendship grows apace from this point onwards. David is soon calling Maddox by his first name, Frank, and the two boys see a great deal of each other, even during the holidays. David is overjoyed things have turned out so well:
It was quite sufficient then that Maddox, the handsomest fellow in the world, the best bat probably that Marchester had ever produced, and altogether the most glorious of created beings, should have noticed him at all...
That Maddox should not merely have noticed him but have become Frank, the best friend, albeit three years his senior, in whose company he now feels so totally at ease and in which he so much delights, seems scarcely credible.
On one of their holiday meet-ups, the two boys go for a swim and chat as they undress, a decidedly erotic note at last being allowed to creep into their relationship. Frank is now 18, about to go to Cambridge, and David 15. David slowly strips as he laughs and talks, standing completely nude for a few moments before plunging in.
Meanwhile, the downward-spiralling Hughes has finally come to grief. Frank gets a letter from the Housemaster to say that Hughes will not be allowed back the following September because a 'beastly' letter, intended for a friend, has been intercepted. "What an ass Hughes is!" exclaims David, when Frank breaks the news. "He was such a nice chap, too, at my other school."
Frank then says, but for David's influence, he could well have met Hughes's fate. They recall the bathroom incident, Frank repeating how bitterly he had regretted it almost immediately afterwards, David striving to get him to see it is all in the past: he tells Frank how grateful he is for the way in which he has protected him and acted almost as a guardian angel. Frank says, on the contrary, it is David's inherent and impregnable decency which has saved him. Instead of corrupting David, David has made him uncorrupt himself.
Back at school Violet, daughter of one of the Masters, comes like a flash of lightning into David's life and everything seems to change. He falls head over heels in love with her. It begins to look as if he is now heading for the conventional transition into heterosexual maturity:
All his other friends, Frank and his own sister, and Bags and Plugs, were on a different plane. He loved Margery [his sister], he loved Frank, he esteemed and relied on Bags, but none gave him any tremor, any sense of excitement. But for Violet, his boyish heart was full of a sweet tumult and confusion, whenever the enchantress came within eyeshot.
The enchantment ends cruelly with the news Violet has become engaged to a cousin. David is desolated, but receives a lot of comfort from his friends.
Shortly afterwards, when David has gone into the town one afternoon, a driverless horse and cart come pounding down the street, completely out of control. He rushes out impetuously to grab the horse's reins but is run over by the cart. He sustains very serious injuries and for the next few days his life hangs in the balance. Frank begs the Head to be allowed to see him, saying:
"He's the best chap in the world, sir,.. He saved me you know. Just saved me."
The Head pressed his arm,
"Ah, that's between you and David," he said. "It's not for me to hear. But I know you love him, which is the only point. Please God, you'll have him with you many years yet...."
Frank sits beside David's bed and waits for him to wake. When he does, he is terribly restless; the doctor says it is crucial he go on sleeping. Frank tells David to imagine they are back in the dormitory, helping each other to doze off, as they sometimes did. David says it might help if Frank would hold his hand, if he wouldn't mind. Frank is delighted and stays there, losing all feeling in his arm, still holding David's hand, helping him to slowly drift off to sleep. He goes on sleeping for hours together.
Frank's reward is, when David awakes, before he is really awake in fact, it is his name that is on his lips. When he learns Frank has been by his bedside, holding his hand for around twelve hours, David exclaims:
"Oh, I say! And just because you thought I might want you."
David's eyes were bright and untired again: there was life shining behind them...
Frank leaned over him.
"Yes, I thought you might want me," he said; "but also I couldn't go away. I wanted you."
Benson was 48 when this book was published. If we allow for all the 'rippings' which date the book so markedly, this is still a remarkable novel. It is as if Benson, appalled by what is going on in the trenches across the channel, is anticipating Duhamel's verdict on our civilization: it is either in our hearts or it is nowhere.
As if to reinforce the point, Benson published another novel in 1916 called Mike (Michael in America and in the Internet version). Whilst David Blaize has not mentioned the war which is tearing Europe apart, Mike has the war at its centre.
Michael, who is heir to Lord Ashbridge, has, much to his father's disgust, resigned his commission in the Guards in order to devote his life to music. This is in 1913, when he is just 25.
Whilst in Germany, the Mecca of music at this period, he grows so friendly with Hermann and Sylvia Falbe as to become almost one of the family, spending much of his time with them when they all decide to go to London. Sylvia is giving recitals and becoming a celebrated vocalist whilst Hermann is her fine accompanist. Hermann agrees to take Michael on as his pupil, transforming an average pianist into an accomplished artist. Sylvia begins to capture Michael's heart and the two eventually become engaged to marry at the end of 1914.
But war has been declared in July of that year. Hermann rushes back to Germany in order to join the army and Michael rejoins his regiment. Sylvia is torn between her love for her half-German brother (their mother is English) and her British lover.
Dimly she had foreseen this contingency when, a few days ago, she had asked Michael what he would do if England went to war, and now that contingency was realised, and Hermann was even now perhaps on his way to violate the neutrality of the country for the sake of which England had gone to war. On the other side was Michael, into whose keeping she had given herself and her love, and on which side was she? It was then that the nightmare came close to her; she could not tell, she was utterly unable to decide. Her heart was Michael's; her heart was her brother's also. The one personified Germany for her, the other England. It was as if she saw Hermann and Michael with bayonet and rifle stalking each other across some land of sand- dunes and hollows, creeping closer to each other, always closer. She felt as if she would have gladly given herself over to an eternity of torment, if only they could have had one hour more, all three of them, together here, as on that night of stars and peace when first there came the news ..................
When, in the early days of the war, there are reports of German atrocities to Belgian civilians, Sylvia cannot believe they are true. Michael gently begs to differ,
There seems to have been sworn testimony. War is a cruel thing; I hate it as much as you. When men are maddened with war, you can't tell what they would do. They are not the Germans you know, nor the Germans I know, who did such things--not the people I saw when I was with Hermann in Baireuth and Munich a year ago. They are no more the same than a drunken man is the same as that man when he is sober. They are two different people; drink has made them different. And war has done the same for Germany.
When news reaches Michael that his beloved cousin Francis has been killed in the early stages of the fighting, he is at first seized with a mad desire to go off and kill as many Germans as he can.
Soon he raised himself again, not ashamed of his sorrow, but somehow ashamed of the black hate that before had filled him. That was gone for the present, anyhow, and Michael was glad to find it vanished. Instead there was an aching pity, not for Francis alone nor for himself, but for all those concerned in this hideous business. .
Sylvia also knows of Francis's death and understands why Michael wants to be alone. Nevertheless she goes to him in order to tell him how her heart goes out to him in his grief. Michael says to her,
I loved Francis, as you know, and I love Hermann, but there is our love, the greatest thing of all. We've got it--it's here. Oh, Sylvia, we must be wise and simple, we must separate things, sort them out, not let them get mixed with one another. We can do it; I know we can. There's nothing outside us; nothing matters--nothing matters.
As soon as he has said this, Michael realises there is no escape from their entrapment.
Even as he asserted the inviolability of the sanctuary in which they stood, he knew it to be an impossible Utopia--that he should find with her the peace that should secure them from the raging storm, the cold shadow--and the loosening of her arms about his neck but endorsed the message of his own heart.
When Michael is himself in the front line he is afflicted at times by the insane waste and insanity of it all and at times by the horrors which might beset him personally.
........the feeling was one of some mental and spiritual shrinking from the whole of this vast business of murder, where hundreds and thousands of men along the battle front that stretched half-way across Europe, were employed, day and night, without having any quarrel with each other, in the unsleeping vigilant work of killing. ….. What if, more mercifully, he was killed outright, so that he would lie there in peace till next night they removed his body, or perhaps had to bury him in the trench itself, with a dozen handfuls of soil cast over him! At that he suddenly realised how passionately he wanted to live, to escape from this infernal butchery, to be safe again, gloriously or ingloriously, it mattered not which, to be with Sylvia once more.
Shortly after this, Michael shoots the soldier who is leading a surprise assault on their trenches. He manages to pull him into their trench, getting shot in the arm in the process, and is desolated to discover it is Hermann he has shot.
After two weeks in a field hospital in France, Michael returns to London for a brief spell of sick leave. He knows he must tell Sylvia the truth about what has happened:
"He fell across the parapet close to me," he said. . . . "I lifted him somehow into our trench. . . . I was wounded, then. . . . He lay at the bottom of the trench, Sylvia. . . . And I would to God it had been I who lay there. . . . Because I loved him. . . . Just at the end he opened his eyes, and saw me, and knew me. And he said--oh, Sylvia, Sylvia!--he said 'Lieber Gott, Michael. Good morning, old boy.' And then he died. . . . I have told you."
Michael then breaks down, sobbing helplessly at the hopelessness of it all. He himself will never be able to play the piano again and he has lost his two best friends, one by his own hand. His only consolation is that Sylvia bears him no ill-will but is entirely at one with him in his grief and distraction.
Hugh Walpole, when he was 43, also wrote a school story, Jeremy at Crale, which has a good deal in common with David Blaize. [<>Jeremy at Crale is also available on the Net.] This was published in 1927, just about mid-way between the two World Wars.
Again the hero has one or two close friends, one of whom, Llewelyn, is a bit too fond of Jeremy for his comfort. He tends to repulse his advances because, although he likes him, he feels there is something a bit "queer" about him. But Jeremy has seen another boy, senior to him, with whom he falls instantly in love although he has only seen him at a distance. He has never met him or spoken to him, but he learns most boys in his year regard him as somewhat reclusive and inaccessible. Yet Jeremy knows intuitively that this boy is someone to whom "he can tell things." He is the one person he has seen at school with whom he feels real intimacy is possible.
At long last, Jeremy does manage to meet this other boy, Ridley. They exchange just a few sentences and Ridley agrees to embark on the friendship which Jeremy feels emboldened to propose and has long felt is predestined for them. Jeremy returns to his study "happier than he had ever been in all his life before." - and there the novel ends.
What all these writers are saying in their own ways is that all the king's horses and all the king's men will avail us nothing unless we can allow mutual love to conquer all that is so ruthlessly anarchic and destructive in our nature. Freud would shortly be telling us that the critical human battleground is dominated by our two basic instincts, eros (broadly speaking, sex and love) versus thanatos (death, an atavistic pull back to the primal chaos). It is largely up to us to decide which will win the day.
In his last major work, Freud wrote:
After long doubts and vacillations we have decided to assume the existence of only two basic instincts, Eros and the destructive instinct ...the aim of the first of these basic instincts is to establish ever greater unities and to preserve them thus - in short, to bind together; the aim of the second, on the contrary, is to undo connections and so destroy things [<>Sigmund Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1949, pp5f].
Duhamel and Benson, each in their own way and in their very different contexts, have seen all this very clearly.
The problem for Duhamel is men are so busy killing and wounding each other they have no opportunity to allow their love to grow and blossom; everything is drowned in a muddy mixture of blood and decaying flesh. Thanatos seems invincible.
The problem for Benson is: whilst Frank's love for David, and David's for him, can turn the scales against thanatos in favour of eros, there is a big question mark about how far this love can go or how strong it will prove. Violet can bring to David's 'boyish heart' a tremor, an excitement, an enchantment, which none of his male friends, not even Frank, can bring. But this is surely because David and Frank have outlawed the 'filth' which has been the downfall of Hughes and his cronies and nearly was of Frank.
David and Frank eventually come to a full and joyous acceptance of their mutual love, a love which even their Headmaster has approved, but they are at a loss to know what to do about the 'filthy' side of themselves, except try to smother it, thereby forfeiting the tremor and the enchantment which goes with sexual love, which they seem to assume has to be reserved for the fair sex. Sex between boys, one suspects even a kiss between boys, cannot help being revolting and squalid and degrading.
It may be they will get over this, learn to get it all together, become so all-sufficient to each other they settle into an exclusively gay (albeit, at this time, criminal) relationship.
It may even be they will not only learn all this but also learn how to overcome the exclusive boundaries around their relationship, each of them eventually also loving a woman and having children, though never being in danger of losing each other.
We have moved a little way since the days of World War I but one suspects there are still far too many males who have yet to confront the real contestants in our human battle to achieve a brighter future.
11: THE ENGLISHMAN ABROAD
Whilst the European powers were engaged in a grab for Africa, then a steady consolidation of their empires, a process which generated the bitter rivalries culminating in the war of 1914-1918, many European males were being sent abroad, either as soldiers or colonial officers or businessmen, in the service of their various governments.
Although these men went to distant places out of a sense of duty, a search for adventure, a keen business sense, a failure to find work at home, or some similar motive, for most of them this was their first encounter with a culture, a climate and a sexual ethos radically different from the one they had left behind. In many cases this transition had a profound effect eventually on their own attitudes and lifestyles. Because of the extent of its empire and because of the unusually puritanical regime at home, Britain and its men folk were more strikingly affected by this phenomenon than any of the other colonial powers in Europe.
If we ask what effect living and working in an exotic ethos had upon the sexuality of these men, we could do no better than refer to Ronald Hyam's masterly inquiry into this very question. [<> Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality: the British experience, Manchester University Press (Studies in Imperialism series), pb edition, 1991. Hyams' book is the source for all the material in this chapter, specific references to which are indicated by a number in square brackets, indicating the page number(s) in Empire and Sexuality where further detail can be found.]
It comes as quite a revelation to discover how often a homosexual or bisexual element begins to colour these colonial lives. Hyam, a Cambridge historian, thinks we should not be unduly surprised about this since, as he says in his Introduction, "We are all more or less bisexuals these days" . But Hyam would be the first to admit, for the men themselves, it was only the experience of working abroad that made them aware of the homosexual side of themselves or of their inherent bisexuality.
This was not always the case. There were some men who opted to go abroad precisely because they craved the freedom to live in a way which would have been thwart with danger and social censure at home. Many wealthy Victorians, respectably married at home, kept villas abroad where they could cultivate male sex. Even Disraeli kept a villa in Naples about which he was secretive and which may possibly have been for this purpose . For men who could not afford to keep villas but knew they had this need, faraway places could beckon seductively.
Home territory was definitely a minefield. Just before Castlereagh committed suicide in 1822 he is said to have been deeply depressed to learn the Bishop of Clogher was facing trial for having committed sodomy with a soldier in London . Habits learned abroad and practised with relative ease could be highly dangerous if imported to the homeland, as when General Sir Eyre Coote was caught at Christ's Hospital school in 1815, with his trousers down "in a flogging and groping session with six boys aged fourteen and fifteen"; the General had been Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica and was in his fifties when this incident occurred [<> I have discovered that another Sir Eyre Coote was Governor of Calder Castle at the time when Dr. Samuel Johnson visited him in the previous century. See his account in Journey to The Western Isles].
Life abroad was usually free of such alarms and excursions and especially permissive for those in senior colonial or military posts, as the following thumbnail sketches amply demonstrate.
Henry Lawrence went to India in 1822 and became an administrator in the Punjab. He married his English fiancée in 1837 but, after his marriage, continued to cultivate a very close friendship with his junior colleagues, John Nicholson and Herbert Edwardes, as well as with innumerable local lads whom he took under his wing. Lawrence and Edwardes even shared a bedroom when Mrs Lawrence had returned to England for her fourth pregnancy .
Sometimes the license claimed by these Britishers abroad was so excessive it eventually brought them to a sticky end, though usually because they had fallen foul of the ex-patriate community or threatened to bring the whole Imperial structure into disrepute. Sir Hector Macdonald and Sir Roger Casement are instances of this.
Macdonald, a Scottish soldier, had been a hero at Omdurman and done well in South Africa. He had been (unofficially) married in 1884 and had a son, but had separated from his wife in 1894. In 1902, when he was aged 39, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Ceylon. Within the space of a year, he seems to have become sexually involved with most of the better-placed boys on the island, whether from colonial or local families. According to rumour at the time, even the Governor General's son was one of Macdonald's playmates. By 1903, Macdonald found himself at the centre of a major scandal and shot himself [32-35].
Casement was tried and executed as a traitor in 1916 for backing the independent Irish cause and seeking to enlist German help for that cause in time of war. He had enjoyed a brilliant career although, at the time of the trial, when he was in his forties, he was showing distinct symptoms of manic-depressive (now termed ‘bi-polar’) illness. What damned him in the eyes of public opinion were the notorious 'black diaries', which had been discovered and circulated amongst journalists, although not actually used at the trial. The diaries do seem to have been quite genuine, although, before they were submitted to expert analysis, many thought they had been forged to discredit him.
Casement had been knighted for his fearless honesty and investigative rigour in exposing atrocious maltreatment, first of African rubber workers in the Congo, then of Huitos Indians working on rubber plantations in Peru. In both cases he had been instrumental in bringing about sweeping reform. The 'black books' revealed that, throughout this period, whilst professionally he had shown such utter integrity and courage, he had also privately been assiduously engaging rent boys - he liked them tall and well hung - to "screw" him [35-38]. Since Casement never married and seems only to have had platonic friendships with women, he is not strictly relevant to this book except insofar as it was his years of service in Africa and South America which unbuttoned his homosexuality and which brought him, even after all the prestige he had enjoyed, such loathing in many British eyes.
When talking about the kind of sexuality officially approved in Victorian Britain, Hyam distinguishes four peculiar features: "too many frigid wives, ... too many terrorised and desexualised children, and too many outcast men, stigmatised whenever they strayed into any variation from the supposed "norm"."  He hastens to say many managed to steer their own course and avoid these horrors, though, if they ventured into any kind of homosexual or bisexual 'deviance', they risked legal retribution. In contrast, he observes Taoists enjoined two ejaculations a day for boys of fourteen, Hindus were happy to have prostitutes attached to their temples, Melanesian converts saw nothing wrong in putting phallic images on their altars, the Japanese had no qualms about sodomy, whilst Sambian males in New Guinea were "connoisseurs of semen-tasting" .
That observing such customs would have a profound impact on a new arrival from these islands I know from my own experience. When I arrived in India as an uptight young English bachelor in 1954, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw youths and men walking the city or village streets holding hands, or one with his arms round the other's shoulder. They did this as if it were the most natural thing in the world; I knew it was - but I also knew my friends in Britain would have had kittens had I attempted to escort them through the streets in this way.
As I said earlier [<>see chapter 2] it came as a still bigger shock to see village boys, who customarily went around completely naked until they reached puberty, being openly wanked by older men in the village. I remember attending an evening meeting in a village where we were seated outside, illuminated by a petromax lantern on the ground. The villagers in front of me were seated in a semi-circle and the man directly in front of me was wanking his two-year-old son.
The father was squatting and the lad was lying on his back with his legs toward his father; his little prick was erect and was being gently wanked for the duration of an hour-long meeting. None of the other villagers paid the slightest attention to them and the father himself was looking at the speaker throughout in rapt attention. The little lad never stirred or uttered a sound but seemed to be in a pleasant, comotose state.
When you see such things with your own eyes, and many other incidents of a similar nature, and observe how openly and unselfconsciously they happen, it tends to have a dramatic effect on your own sexual attitudes!
Returning to Victorian Britain, the main chink in its armour was, as yet, people had not generally become suspicious of friendships between men and boys. "Paedophiles were not yet singled out for persecution, and popular culture continued to validate a strong emotional interest in boyhood until well into the 1920s" . We have seen something of this in school stories like David Blaize and Jeremy at Crale, suitably guarded against any 'beastly' or 'filthy' or 'queer' goings-on, but with no inhibitions about celebrating love between boys - and both books written by middle-aged men. They would be thought more than a little odd in these enlightened days!
We have already noted Hyam's observation that, for those privileged Englishmen who wanted unashamedly sexual friendships or liaisons with other men or youths, the Mediterranean countries had functioned much as the empire did for a broader spectrum of men. Byron's trips to Greece and Turkey, Fritz Krupp's and Baron Fersen's to Capri, Baron von Gloeden's to Sicily, these were all homosexually motivated [91f]. They have been followed by a whole succession of twentieth century writers from Britain and America who found places like Italy and North Africa much more congenial than their home countries as regards male sex - one thinks of Tennessee Williams, Somerset Maugham, William Burroughs, Joe Orton - and a host of others.
Further afield, we usually discover men who were busily engaged in whatever occupation had caused them to go overseas but who incidentally encountered sexual frustration because they were separated from their wives, or sometimes from any women at all. This is more or less what applied in the mining compounds in South Africa. 'Boy-wives' were recruited by the mining companies to do the household chores and enter into temporary 'marriages' with the mine workers. The approved mode of sex was intra-crural [between-the-thighs] fucking, the boy remaining relatively passive. When the boys grew into their mid-twenties, they usually returned home with money enough to get married and raise a family, then returned to become miners and take 'boy-wives' of their own. Although the men did have access to women in the towns, they usually preferred their boys because sex with them was safer, involved less hassle, and was set in the context of a relationship which often grew to be extremely affectionate on both sides [98f].
In other parts of the world, missionaries were amongst those 'contaminated' by local mores. In New Zealand, the Revd. Yate was sent home in disgrace in 1837 when, after it had leaked out he had been having sex with two sailors when on a return trip to New Zealand, it emerged he had also been wanking or having intra-crural sex with his young Maori converts - perhaps as many as a hundred of them! .
The Santa Cruz Mission, which also included the Solomons and New Hebrides, was constantly running into trouble because the sexual habits of the islanders were proving more seductive than the gospel. Three missionaries had to be sent home, one of whom, A.E. Forrest, had been sexually involved with so many boys the Bishop feared he had undermined the whole work of the mission. Forrest actually refused to leave and became a trader, continuing his former habits until imprisoned for gross indecency in 1901. He escaped, resumed his lifestyle, but shot himself in 1908, "being remembered among the locals as the white man hounded to death by vindictive Christians" .
Missions in various parts of Africa frequently ran into the same kind of problem. The first Bishop of Masasi, in office from 1926 until 1944, Canon W.V. Lucas, pioneered a syncretistic initiation ritual which combined circumcision with confirmation, a rite which seems to have been popular with his congregations and for which Lucas himself claimed "a wonderful opportunity is given in this way to the Christian priest of getting into real personal touch with his boys (!)" [105-6].
In Malaya, Europeans in secular stations were particularly prone to find same-sex partners because no censure whatever attached to male- sex in this part of the world and was usually practised in a bisexual context. It has been estimated as many as two-thirds of the ex-patriate men in the colony may have been drawn into this style of living .
India must have been a close runner-up. Hyam gives us two detailed sexual case-histories of British officers in the Indian Army, Kenneth Searight (Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment) and 'G.R.', the otherwise anonymous officer who confided his sexual history to Havelock Ellis.
Searight is not strictly relevant since he never had sex with a woman and seems to have been almost exclusively interested in boys, especially Pathan lads aged between thirteen and fourteen. As a schoolboy at Charterhouse he only had sex with one other boy; when he got to Cairo, then India, he became highly promiscuous and totally without any inhibitions [128-131].
'G.R.' was bisexual throughout his life. At private school in England he had "practised fellatio" a number of times when he was only eleven; at public school, he would "like kissing and hugging the smaller boys" and soon graduated to fucking boys by lying on top of them without penetrating; at seventeen he visited Germany and had sex with two female prostitutes. When he became an army officer he went to South Africa, Ceylon and India and enjoyed a highly active and varied, though hardly a relationally satisfying lifestyle, sleeping with women (European, African or Asian) or men (usually brother-officers) or wanking with the aid of a melon or a papaya [131-133].
Christian confrontation with pagan practices could have tragic consequences. In Buganda, the ruler, or Kabaka, had an entourage of around 500 pages with whom he was in the habit of having anal sex - as were the other court officials. There had been a long history of such goings-on at the Bugandan court and it seems not to have worried anybody. When, under the influence of energetic missionary teaching, boy after boy refused to oblige the Kabaka, Mwanga killed the ringleaders, three in 1885, thirty-one in 1886 and an unknown number in 1887 [186-189]. Many missionaries were shocked to discover their abhorrence of this and other exotic sexual practices like polygamy and clitoridectomy was not only not shared by their would-be converts, but often led to their defection to Islam.
One is struck, in reading Hyam's fascinating book, by the number of times, when homosexual proclivities manifest themselves, boys seem to have been the most frequently sought-after objects of delight, often with a view to anal sex, though often simply in order to enjoy being boyishly randy with boys.
The first 'white raja' of Sarawak, James Brooke, never married or exhibited much sexual interest in women, though he did have an illegitimate son. He was a devoted public servant, his main sexual outlet being his fondness for his nephews, his "midshipmen" (whom he liked to "skylark over his body"), his beloved local prince, Badrudin, and, after the prince's death, his love affair with Charles Grant, who entered his household in 1848 when he was a youth of sixteen and who returned his affection[44-5].
Lord Kitchener would not allow married men on his staff, only young officers - "my happy family of boys"; he never lost his enthusiasm for Boy Scouting and was fond of General Botha's son and the sons of Lord Desborough [38f].
Cecil Rhodes also had a habit of transferring his male secretaries as soon as they married, enjoyed horseplay with blue-eyed valets (his 'lambs') and openly displayed his collection of phallic cult carvings .
Lord Baden-Powell, who did not marry until he was fifty-five, never seems to have got closer to sexual enthusiasm than when he could view boys or men bathing nude, either in the flesh or in photographs [40f].
General Gordon also showed no interest in women but devoted much of his spare time to helping pre-pubescent London urchins to fare well in life .
In 1922, a former Colonial Secretary, Lewis Harcourt, committed suicide after a thirteen-year-old Etonian who had been staying with him told his mother Harcourt had exposed himself to him .
Field Marshal Montgomery became a widower in 1937 and adopted a fiercely puritanical public stance, proposing an age of consent of eighty when the Wolfenden proposals were debated in the Lords in 1965. This did not prevent him from being a great admirer of young boys, falling in love with the eleven-year-old Lucien Trueb in 1945. One of his nine-year-old guests was puzzled when his host made him perform "naked drill" after his evening bath [14f].
In all of these instances, a fondness for boys was given more open sexual expression than might have been the case had the men concerned not experienced much more permissive attitudes toward this kind of sex in Africa or India or some other exotic clime.
What has to be remembered is that the kinds of homosexual or bisexual episode which attract notice tend to be quite untypical of the 'norm'. A man, especially if he shows little or no interest in women, immediately becomes conspicuous if he seems unusually fond of boys and scandalous if there is any evidence of sex, especially anal sex, having taken place. A man who is happily married or heterosexually partnered, who has discreet homosexual relationships and is not fixated on young boys or youths, usually passes completely unnoticed so long as he does not 'frighten horses' or 'rock boats'.
The corollary of this is that the kind of material which Hyam has amassed, important and fascinating as it is, cannot be more than the tip of the iceberg. There must be innumerable men like myself who owe countries like India a tremendous debt of gratitude for encouraging them to accept and act out their bisexuality, but who never found their way into anyone's sexual survey.
Before closing this chapter, one other observation is called for. Hyam tells us that, in 1909, at a time when there had been a scandal about British colonial staff taking concubines in the part of Africa which was to become Kenya, a letter appeared in The Times from a certain T.F. Victor Buxton which included this passage:
...if therefore we are to rise to our responsibilities as an Imperial race - if we are not to bring grievous discredit upon the Christianity we profess - it is essential that those who represent us abroad should be clean-living men, whose conduct may command the respect of the peoples they govern .
There are some interesting assumptions in this passage: all servants of the Crown profess to be Christians; all Christians accept the same, traditional, 'clean-living' monolithic sexual code; all public servants, especially those subject to Imperial scrutiny, should conduct themselves solely with regard to the way their conduct impresses their subjects.
There is not a glimmer of a suggestion Europe might even learn something from these 'lesser breeds without the law', nor is there a hint of uneasiness about the example Christian Europe was about to set the world just seven years hence - and again in 1939.
It is interesting that military men like Montgomery, who were evidently very fond of young lads, could not permit themselves to go on loving these boys once they reached the age of puberty: from that time on, a boy must learn to regard another male, and be prepared to be himself regarded, as a legitimate military target. There is little place for sentiment when you have a male in the sights of your rifle.
12: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The answer to this one obviously depends on where 'here' is since we are very evidently not all in the same place. If we stick narrowly within our own Judaeo-Christian-Islamic culture, there are still quite a number of men who remain very traditional; they want as little change as possible. At the other extreme are those who have abandoned the tradition almost entirely and who now regard themselves as secular humanists, taking their cue from science (especially the human sciences like zoology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, sexology and so on). In between, there is a varied group, hard to quantify, who would not stick rigidly to the tradition but would not want to abandon it altogether.
In view of this wide diversity of starting-point from individual to individual, I have little choice but to frame an answer in rather broad terms. There are, after all, a few basics about which we are all more or less agreed.
We would agree, for instance, that every man, woman and child is a human being. There are still many who would want quickly to add, 'We may all be human, but our lot is much more human than that lot.' There are many more who regard themselves as too enlightened to say this, but still act that way when they encounter people from outside their own introverted little group.
Nevertheless, one of the chief benefits of greatly increased foreign travel and communication, of books and programmes about other peoples and cultures, of steadily increasing access to the Internet, of the globalising trend which relentlessly gathers momentum, more and more of us count ourselves human beings first and foremost; any qualifying labels are strictly subsidiary.
Not only do we see ourselves as part and parcel of the one human race, but we also have some inkling of our being children of the Universe. The same 'big bang' which sent the galaxies spinning out ever further into space was also our point of origin - or would be if we could trace our genealogy back far enough. It is this insight which has given such impetus to those working for ecological and environmental renewal and to those who champion animal rights: the other animals and the inert environment all derive from the same ancestor.
I said at the beginning of the last chapter one of the most hopeful things about the turn of the millennium is that half a century of peace between the major European powers has given us the opportunity to confront and try to solve the real problems which beset us.
The most damnable thing about war is its provision of an excellent excuse for shelving those problems. I was born when the economic slump which caused such acute hardship in Europe and America was becoming chronic. When I was four, Hitler came to power in Germany, largely because the slump, allied to punitive reparations following the war, had caused complete economic breakdown in the Weimar Republic. The revival of the economy under Hitler depended largely on depriving wealthy Jews of their assets and embarking on a vast, secret programme of re-armament. The rest of Europe and America was saved from the headache of dealing with the ills of capitalism because it had to deal with Hitler instead.
After 1945, there was a shortage of labour because of the depredations of war and much of the labour available was needed for a massive task of post-war reconstruction. The Cold War, involving as it did a horrendously wasteful and expensive nuclear arms race, again disguised our real economic problems. It is only as the threat of yet another European cataclysm has slowly receded, and as the threat of it has lost its credibility as an excuse for maintaining the status quo, we have really begun to tackle problems we have been evading for centuries.
Central to those problems is the need to come to terms with our sexuality. This has become increasingly urgent as the level of affluence and technological sophistication climbs steadily higher. Millions of people who, only a short time ago, would have had their noses pressed hard to the grindstone throughout most of their lives, now have growing amounts of surplus cash and enough leisure time to be able to use it according to their own inclination. In spite of AIDS, problems arising from other STDs, an increase in teenage (and even pre-teen!) pregnancies, a high level of marital break-up and far too many disturbed children, it is very clear sex is very high on the average list of leisure priorities.
It is very right and proper this should be the case. A few years ago, it was quite fashionable to suppose sex was on the way out for human beings. Because we needed so little sex for procreative purposes, we should soon outgrow the need for it, thus setting ourselves free to expand our minds and develop our spirituality.
We have learned the hard way, whenever human beings take this route, they tend to become inhuman. When all is said and done, we are creatures of flesh and blood. We ignore this basic fact about ourselves at our peril. Ideologists, whether religious or secular, are particularly at risk. They are very prone to sacrifice all merely human satisfactions for the 'great day that shall be', a day which, whether conceived as some earthly utopia of Marxist ilk or some heavenly paradise, never seems to cater for flesh-and-blood bodies and their needs.
This ideologising tendency is now widely regarded as our greatest human aberration. We are fond of telling ourselves how far above the other animals we now are because of our astonishing mental prowess. We are not so fond of thinking about the debit side of our mentality, which has involved us in wars and environmental vandalism on a scale which only humans could have spawned and which now threatens every other species and even the planet itself. The fear of advancing in the human direction by the inhabitants of the Planet of the Apes was not by any means entirely misplaced.
The apes are in fact highly relevant to the theme of this book. I am the proud possessor of a sumptuous book, produced by the University of California Press, entitled Bonobo: the forgotten Ape. It was published in 1997. The text is by Professor Frans de Waal, a psychologist and one of the world's leading primatologists, and the book is beautifully illustrated by photographer, Frans Lanting. Both the Frans come from a Dutch background and are proud of their country's pioneering, Nobel-Prize-winning tradition in the study of animal behaviour. The numbers in square brackets in the following paragraphs about the bonobo are page references to de Waal's book, where further detail can be found.
Not much has been known about the bonobo until recently but, over the last decade, they have aroused a great deal of interest as being the 'make-love-not-war' primate. Originally they were known as 'pygmy chimpanzees' because of their slight stature; it was under this name they appeared in the British TV series, The Sexual Imperative. The name 'bonobo' is now preferred because, the better they have become known, the clearer it has been to perceive that these apes are a distinct species, not 'miniature chimps' . The word 'bonobo' itself has no significance except as a name for a species.
In the 1930s, Eduard Tratz and Heinz Heck of Munich were the first to undertake a study comparing the bonobo with other chimps. All three bonobo they were studying died of heart failure during air raids on the city. They were not the victims of direct hims but were literally frightened to death!
The findings of this study were thus not published until after the war . The following summary of the differences between the bonobo and the chimp is illuminating:
B = bonobo and C = all other chimps:
1. B: sensitive, lively, nervous; C: coarse, hot-tempered.
2. B: rarely raise their hair; C: often do so.
3. B: almost no physical violence; C: violence common.
4. B: defend by aimed kicks; C: defend by pulling close to bite.
5. B: voice includes vowels, a,e; C: vowels, u,o, more common.
6. B: more vocal; C: less vocal.
7. B: stretch arms & shake hands when calling C: do not stretch arms or shake hands when calling.
8. B: copulate face to face; C: copulate from behind. 
The Munich researchers summarised their findings as follows:
The bonobo is an extraordinarily sensitive, gentle creature, far removed from the demoniacal primitive force [Urkraft] of the adult chimpanzee .
As regards point 8, there is a physiological difference between the two species since female bonobo genitals are between their legs, not oriented towards the back as with other chimps [10f].
De Waal then makes a fundamental distinction between the two species:
If, of the twin concepts of sex and power, the chimpanzee has an appetite for the second, the bonobo clearly has one for the first. The chimpanzee resolves sexual issues with power; the bonobo resolves power issues with sex. ... The chimpanzee's sex life is rather plain and boring; bonobos act as if they have read the Kama Sutra 
The fourth chapter of the book is devoted to the sexual behaviour of the bonobo. It would be out of place here to do more than summarise the findings, but the detail provided in this chapter should be compulsory reading for all those who fulminate against sexy humans for being 'worse than the animals'!
The bonobo copulate heterosexually in most of the positions known to man. The females seem to prefer a frontal approach, largely because their genital anatomy favours this position, but are actually approached about twice as often from behind .
Females usually have sex together face to face, one sometimes lifting the other from the ground. As they cling together, they favour a sideways motion, which affords them clitoral stimulation timed to the same rhythm as that of a thrusting male. Sometimes the females face opposite ways, one lying on her back, the other remaining standing, then bringing her genitals into contact with the one who is on her back. Males also sometimes approach each other back to back, rubbing their rumps and balls together .
The next passage makes me feel I must be a close relative of the bonobo; it must be quoted:
...the posture during so-called mutual penis rubbing resembles that of a heterosexual mount, with one male (usually the younger) passively on his back, the other male thrusting on him. Because both males have erections, their penises rub together. I have never seen ejaculations during sex between males nor attempts at anal penetration .
Except for the bit about no ejaculations, this would be an accurate description of my favourite climactic act when I am with 'A'!
Male bonobos have also, but only rarely, been seen prick-fencing, hanging from trees in their native habitat, face to face, then rubbing their pricks together like crossed swords as they swing.
At the Californian zoo where much of de Waal's data was obtained, the youngest female bonobo, when she was still an infant, was intensely interested in sex and wanted to participate as best she could whenever she saw it happening. She also invented her own sex games with some of the adolescent males, climbing on their bellies, pressing on their genitals, provoking them to do a little thrusting, but without "intromission or ejaculation" .
Kissing between the bonobo is often highly erotic, unlike that of other chimps. A new zookeeper, familiar with chimps but not with bonobo, accepted a kiss from a male bonobo and was startled to discover the bonobo's tongue in his mouth .
When juveniles are playing, chasing each other and wrestling, the action is frequently interspersed by erotic mounting of one another and by bouts of prick-sucking 
Adult males often wank adolescent males, the younger one standing with back straight and prick erect whilst the adult gently clasps it and makes up-and-down movements. Solo wanking is most common amongst adult females and adolescent males. The bonobo have never been observed wanking to climax 
In heterosexual mating there is reciprocity between male and female, the male often ceasing to thrust if he detects that the lady has lost interest .
Although there is a very high rate of sexual activity amongst the bonobo, it is usually casual and relaxed, regarded as a completely natural part of social living. At the zoo, bonobos initiate sex on average once every hour and a half, whilst other chimps average once every seven hours. On the other hand, much of the sex is non-climactic and, even when it results in orgasm, the whole episode usually lasts about a quarter of a minute. Life is thus peppered with brief sexual interludes; it is not one continuous orgy .
Nevertheless, there are physiological developments underlying this greatly increased sexual activity. Whereas the female chimp has a menstrual cycle of around 35 days and is sexually receptive for about half that time, the bonobo menstrual cycle is around 45 days and the female is receptive for about three quarters of that time .
There are considerable social advantages attached to all this bonobo sex. At feeding time in the zoo, the male bonobo get erections and there is a good deal of mild sexual activity all round. This may partly be because one kind of arousal sparks off another, but the main function of the sex is to take the edge off competition for food. This is borne out by the fact, when two bonobo approach a cardboard box with which they both want to play or when one finds a simple object which arouses another's curiosity, instead of squabbling as other species would, they use sexual rubbing or mounting to divert attention and reduce tension. The same device has been observed when a bonobo has done something which has offended another; there is an immediate resort to sex as a means of averting an angry confrontation .
De Waal estimates three-quarters of the sex which takes place amongst the bonobo is non-reproductive, half because it is between same-sex partners and the other quarter at a time when the female is off-peak and almost certain not to conceive . As we have seen, much of this sex is to gain food or reduce competition for food or to alleviate tensions:
Even three-year-old-infants have learned this tactic. Kagi's infant once begged and obtained a bit of pineapple from a young adult male, Jess. She begged again, but Jess moved the pineapple out of reach. Then she turned to present her bottom, upon which Jess thrusted his erect penis a few times against her. The infant took a large piece of pineapple and left him alone .
With all this promiscuous sexual activity, in-breeding is avoided because, around the time of puberty, female bonobo in the wild wander off in search of other colonies, into one of which they eventually settle. This averts the risk of having reproductive sex with fathers or brothers or sons [116-122].
The biggest pay-off of the promiscuity within the colony is the way it makes it impossible for any of the males to know which offspring he has fathered. In other primate species, including chimps, it is common practice for the male to 'capture' a female, take jealous possession of her, killing off any children she has had by other mates, thus ensuring all the infants she is allowed to care for are his own. Infanticide is unknown amongst the bonobo for the very good reason any child around the colony could have been fathered by any of the adult males in the group [118-123].
One reason why the bonobo have evolved differently from other primates, developing a lifestyle and a pattern of social organisation which is so gentle, intelligent and tolerant, and which evidently brings them so much joy, is that they have traditionally lived in a benign environment in the remote forests of Zaire, have never, until recently, been seriously threatened as a species, and have shown no inclination to go off in search of pastures new. As a result, they have not had to adapt to hostile environments or hold their own against fierce rivals.
In sharp contrast, the human species, in the process of exploring and adapting to a wide range of different climates and geographies, had also to compete with rival groups who wanted to defend their territory or who also wanted to invade. The most 'successful' human groups have therefore tended to be predatory and aggressive, evolving with a strong streak of aggression in their genes. This aggressiveness has had tragic consequences for its victims; when they have not been killed or maimed, they have usually been left to cope with the familiar syndrome of exodus, famine and pestilence or been treated as slaves. In the twentieth century, human aggressiveness, for the first time in our history, threatened to wipe us off the face of the planet.
There are encouraging signs, in spite of all the trading in arms which still goes on, and all the savage suppression of one group by another which still all too frequently occurs, we are at long last moving towards a true world order wherein, instead of soldiers we have peacekeepers and, instead of national sovereignty, we have global structures which safeguard human rights, promote social justice and uphold the rule of law.
That we shall go marching steadily on in this enlightened direction is by no means a foregone conclusion. There have been so many shattered dreams and broken ideals in the past century and the opening years of this century, only a fool could be too blithely confident about the outcome of these more recent, constructive developments.
What we can learn from the bonobo is that our best chance of survival is to learn how, along with our burgeoning cerebral striving, we can also harness our sexuality, getting it to work for us, not simply to achieve optimal individual happiness, but also to create the most stable and peaceful possible global society.
Reading the school stories quoted in the previous chapter, along with others of similar type, it becomes quite clear that the dominant need in our kind of society is to learn to blend aspects of personality, traditionally regarded as mutually exclusive, as equally necessary ingredients of a fully-rounded selfhood or a richly fertile society.
13: GETTING IT TOGETHER
In both the school stories already considered [<>David Blaize and Jeremy at Crale; see chapter 10 above], there is a remarkably high valuation of love between young males but an equally high condemnation of anything 'filthy' or 'beastly' or 'queer' going on between them. Inter-male relationships are depicted as a battle between the lure of the flesh and the marriage of minds and spirits. We get the distinct impression if you opt for the one, you must forfeit the other.
An obvious problem about this is it doesn't apply to inter-sex relationships. The highest kind of relationship between a man and a woman is held by these same people to be marriage - and a marriage which has not been sexually consummated is not technically a marriage.
One way of dealing with the problem is the one often resorted to by the Victorians: the noble, asexual marriage of male minds is on a higher plane than the sexual, reproductively motivated marriage of man and wife. This is not a happy solution since it again downgrades sex and the 'carnal' lusts and does nothing to promote a high valuation of marriage.
One can sympathise with the problem faced by schoolteachers responsible for a segregated group of spirited young males who, as well as studying, playing and eating together, also sleep together in the same dormitories. Boys being boys, night life could easily become a succession of prolonged orgies unless strict discipline and a sustained anti-lust campaign were imposed. I have no first-hand experience of this kind of school environment, either as pupil or as teacher, but I very much regret the effect it seems to have on so many of its products. Insofar as they are ever able to resolve this deeply-instilled conflict between body and spirit in their relationships with women or with other fellows, it is likely to take years of painful experience before the task is complete.
In 1970, the science-fiction author, Brian Aldiss, wrote a twentieth century school story which achieved legendary success [<>The Hand-Reared Boy, London, 1970, pb 1971]. When Horrie Stubbs arrives, at the age of thirteen, at Bramwells, he has already been wanking for three years. He was initiated by Nelson, his brother, three years his senior, when Horrie was just ten. Before long, Ann, Horrie's sister, four years younger than him, joins in the act. Horatio (as he was christened) has already had fun with the girls at kindergarten. They had invented a game called 'Farmers and Cows', played with great delight whenever they could find the necessary privacy. The boys were the cows and they had to have their little cocks demurely 'milked' by the girl-farmers. Horrie had fallen in love with Hilda and had a heavenly time just kissing her, though there were a few more erotic moments as romance developed.
When the oldest girl at the kindergarten locked the door one day when teacher was out, stood on a table and stripped, revealing her first strands of pubic hair and leaning back so the lips of her cunt opened a little, Horrie remembered having his first real erection.
When Nelson and Horrie formed the habit of wanking together regularly, Ann insisted on being present, "or I'll tell mummy!". At first she just spectated but then she became the chief wanker, sometimes of both brothers simultaneously.
With the boys, Horrie, who was circumcised, discovered a schoolpal of his wasn't. To his great delight, when they were alone together, his friend let him have a good look at his cock, then finger and rub it, foreskin and all. Soon after this, he went a good deal further with William, who regularly "flapped himself" [<>op.cit. p.40]. When they got the chance to get to grips with each other, Horrie wanked excitedly with his glans under William's foreskin, until William pulled away to bring himself off, enabling Horrie to witness someone coming to climax for the first time.
The plot thickens with the girls when Ann persuades Horrie to let her friend, Rosemary, play with his prick - which she does with mounting enthusiasm. Meanwhile Nelson, though he has become more remote, still lets his little brother wank him and is delighted to let him see him shooting spunk for the first time.
Just before he is sent to Bramwells, Horatio has his first near-adult heterosexual experience with Beatrice, the maid who has caught him wanking and promptly turned it into a mutual act [<>op.cit. pp. 44-47]. A little later, just before his thirteenth birthday, he actually has ecstatic sex with Beatrice [<>op.cit. pp53f].
When he starts life at Bramwells it is thus no shock for Horatio to find the dormitory a hive of furtive sexual activity, which is almost entirely limited to mutual wanking or 'insurance' as his schoolmates wittily call it, an allusion to the nearby office of the Mutual Insurance Company. After a major sporting victory, the boys celebrate by forming the 'Maginot Line', all of them lining up and wanking the fellow on his right.
A ritual which had more of the element of a trial in it was the solitary pilgrimage, when one member of the dormitory (which might hold up to forty boys) would decide to go round each bed in turn, administering a tossing-off at each. ... The pilgrim finished his sacred round with a painfully stiff penis. He was then allowed to give himself relief, or to choose anyone he liked to do it for him [<>op. cit. p.61].
Horatio is voted into an 'insurance' club in his second term, along with three other boys in his corner of the dormitory. The rule is: each boy has to take his turn each night to visit each of the other three beds and wank off its occupant. Neither wanker nor wanked can ever be allowed to shirk his duty unless playing in a house or school game on the following day. Horatio finds all the other three have been allowed to keep their foreskins, but each prick looks different and they take greatly varying times to reach a climax, from just a "few strokes" to a seeming eternity.
This club was good for me, because I was somewhat shy of the whole business at first, but our form of 'insurance' permitted the relationships to be totally impersonal. No affection was involved [<>op cit. p.62].
Here is an interesting concept: a "totally impersonal" relationship! He tells us more about the sex at school, including the phenomenal and much-fêted Harper Junior, whose "prick was eleven inches long when limp and a foot long when erect. Or it could have been a foot long when limp and thirteen inches erect" [op.cit. p.63] enabling him to suck the end of his own prick with ease. Then there was Brown, younger than Horatio and his friends but "with a natural flair for the erotic". Brown is "in love" with a sixth former called Webster and a threesome is arranged:
With rubber bands, we coupled our pricks together, Webster's and my turgid black things on the outside, Brown's elegant pink-and-white weapon in the middle [<>op.cit. p.63].
Here is the mature Horatio's verdict on the steamy sex life he enjoyed at school:
I never recall any cases of boys being seduced by masters or staff - had it happened, the news would have spread round the school at once. Mutual masturbation was rife, but homosexuality was virtually non-existent; perhaps the elaborate codes guarded against it. Certainly the codes, with their embargo on emotion, helped to damp down affectionate attachments that might lead to later disturbances; on the other hand, they tended to promote coldness of temperament and concentration on the organ, as they did in my case. For all that, within the insane context of a public school, I believe they acted to protect the maximum number [<>op.cit.pp.64f].
The thing which stares one in the face about all this is that the two generations of school story are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Whilst Benson and Walpole decry anything crudely sexual between schoolboys but exalt youthful love between males, Aldiss takes crude schoolboy sex in his stride but regards the absence of emotion as a plus, in spite of the "coldness of temperament" it engenders.
Granted the unresolved sexual conflicts and hang-ups of the society which sends its young sons off to boarding school, one must concede that a boys' dormitory is the last place on earth where the right balance is going to be struck. This does not alter the fact it is desperately important that we find the right balance.
In the discussion which follows, I propose to simplify matters in order to make the issues as clear-cut as possible. To do this, I shall use a simple code to denote the two extremes. The complex of ideas associated with the Benson-Walpole view of the matter will be referred to as [A], whilst the Aldiss view will be referred to as [B].
I hope I am not alone in heartily endorsing the positive side of both views, which is, in [A], a powerfully-felt love between two males is a wonderful thing and, in [B], a capacity to enjoy sex between males is also a wonderful thing. I hope I would not be wholly on my own in wanting to go on to a third position, [C], which asserts that both these propositions are also equally true of male-female relationships; here too it is highly desirable that there be a both a powerfully-felt love and a capacity to enjoy sex.
I would equally want to reject the negative side of both these propositions; in fact logic requires it. If we are to endorse the positive side of the [B] view, it would be simply contradictory to also uphold the negative side of [A], which is that anything crudely sexual between boys is 'beastly', 'filthy' and so on. Similarly, endorsement of what is positive in [A] (love between males is a fine thing) excludes endorsement of the negative side of [B] (youthful sex between males is best kept free of emotion).
The crying need is to combine what is positive in [A] and in [B] instead of, as still tends to happen, having each of them out on a limb, waving flags for their own side but throwing brickbats at the other lot.
It is my considered view, backed up by a long lifetime of on-the-whole highly satisfying and pleasurable experience, there is nothing at all to be said for a playing-down of the value of love or of sex or of the suggestion that love-and-sex can only satisfactorily happen between either same-sex or opposite-sex partners but not both. I wish to maintain that both love and sex can operate in a person's relationships with people of both genders.
At this point, it is important to note a terminological confusion in the [B] view, as propounded by Horatio Stubbs. He thinks homosexuality was "virtually non-existent" at Bramwells, whereas it was, in fact, everywhere. He has told us anal sex "never seemed to enter anyone's head" [<>op.cit. p.59] but virtually all the boys in the school were very much preoccupied with each other's pricks. This chimes entirely with my own experience at a non-boarding, co-ed grammar school, and is, I think, of crucial importance. It is the fascination of same-sex genitals, not behinds, which is virtually universal, and it is this fascination which is quintessentially homosexual, whilst the other is obviously quasi-heterosexual and only ever experienced by a small minority of men who are either separated from women or have put a self-imposed ban on them or have been seduced into anal sex with predatory males.
What Horatio seems to think is homosexual is sex between fellows which actually expresses mutual emotion. He is totally mixing his drinks here. Sex, whether between same-sex or opposite-sex partners, may be with or without emotion; whichever it is, if it involves same-sex partners (even if the act itself is quasi-heterosexual) it is homosexual - and the more preoccupied with same-sex genitals it is, the more homosexual it is. Horatio's schoolboy sex, therefore, was about as homosexual as it could be - and I bless the lad for being so delightfully frank about it.
What the [A] view says is: sex between males is taboo, whilst the [B] view says: love between males is taboo. The [B] view has no problem about loveless sex between males (even cheatingly denying it is homosexual!) whilst the [A] view has no problem about sexless love between males (often implying it is nobler than sexual love across the genders!).
Presumably, proponents of the [B] view are not hamstrung by traditional, religious injunctions against any form of non-reproductive sex - as the proponents of the [A] view certainly are - and would argue [a] healthy boys are a randy lot and [b] they naturally turn to other boys for erotic excitement and adventure, finding cocks/pricks more intriguing at this stage and more accessible than cunts and [c] they will quickly grow out of this transitional 'homosexuality' as they grow into adolescence and their maturing sex drive begins to point them towards the opposite sex - provided, that is, their sexual capers with other boys have been insulated against deep emotional attachments "that might lead to later disturbances".
At least Horatio is honest enough to admit the [B] view does have the limitation of fostering a coldness of temperament which tends to linger. It is not easy, after years of being encouraged to treat sex as something 'impersonal', just a 'fun' thing, to come to a realisation it can and should be the most personal experience we can have.
The [B] view is, in fact, deeply flawed. So is the [A] view for that matter, but the flaws in the [A] view stem from adherence to religious taboos about non-reproductive sex which most people these days have abandoned. So long as [A] viewers continue to cling to those taboos, nothing one says will have much effect; wherever those taboos have been abandoned, the [A] view can only survive by force of habit.
The flaws in the [B] view stem from a failure of courage; the old religious taboos have seemingly been rejected, at least to the extent of regarding wanking and mutual genital sex between boys as natural and harmless, even healthy, but then the taboos craftily re-assert themselves in the unspoken assumption that the natural progression is towards exclusively heterosexual sex, probably in the context of the nuclear family. There is a reprieve for juvenile male sex but not for the adult variety (at least if you can possibly help it), and even the juvenile variety must be stripped of deep emotional significance.
What is wrong with this is, in seeming to have endorsed the view that non-reproductive sex is OK and needs no apology, it then panders to the view that sex is sex is sex: always the same thing. This is manifest nonsense, but it is the one thing proponents of the two views, [A] and [B], would agree about. The [A] lobby would say that sex between boys is always beastly (and even between a boy and a girl a bit beastly, though redeemable by the birth of children), whilst the [B] lobby would say that sex between boys is always fun (so long as it doesn't tamper with your emotions and 'queer' you). But although they have very different evaluations of it, they are both saying that sex between males must always be the same thing, either a beastly thing or a fun thing.
The truth, as we have been urging throughout this book, is that sex is many things. It can be an act of aggression and a denial of another person's rights, as when a woman is raped or a child becomes a mere sex-object for a predatory adult. It can be a mutually pleasurable experience with no strings attached, as in a casual encounter where neither party is wanting more than a casual encounter. It can be a means to maternal or paternal fulfilment, as when a couple deliberately try to time their sex to coincide with the right moment in the menstrual cycle. It can be a magical, direct, non-verbal (or at least, non-verbally-dependent) means of expressing and receiving the tenderest and most affectionate emotions of which human beings are capable. It can be any of these things (except the maternal/paternal one) whatever the gender of the participants.
The point is. it is never all of these things at the same time and hopefully never ever is the first of those things - rape and sexual predation. As regards the rest, the overwhelming majority of us, if we are honest, have a need for all these kinds of sex and for partners of both genders. The proportions and priorities between one kind of sex and another, and of one gender rather than another, will vary from person to person, but not the basic range of need.
The trouble with both the views we have been discussing is their driving of a wedge between body and emotion where relationships between boys and youths are concerned, [A] denying the body but permitting the emotion, [B] denying the emotion but permitting the body. What is needed, of course, is to get them both together.
It would be the sheerest cant to pretend they must always go in tandem. Who in the world would want all his relationships to be sexual or all his sex intensely and intimately personal? But who in his senses wants to be told a same-sex relationship is OK so long as it excludes sex [the A view] or excludes emotion [the B view]? Surely we want to feel free, so long as we are not being deceitful or playing fast and loose with those we profess to love, to allow time, circumstance, the other person, how we mutually feel - and so on - to determine what kind of sex or relationship we embark on. The point is, if we once decide that non-reproductive sex is OK, there are no pre-determined taboos; if we are still afflicted with taboos, we have not really accepted the validity of non-reproductive sex.
In reading the [A] type of story, one longs for the boys to be granted the freedom, informed by careful, factual teaching, to allow their feelings for each other to take physical, sexual shape - and to allow themselves to have less emotionally-charged sex with each other on other occasions.
In reading the [B] type of story, one wishes, amid the welter of one-dimensional sex, the boys felt free, again informed by careful teaching, to allow sex to take on a deeper multi-dimensional significance when they feel a mutual impulse to move that way - without fearing they are thereby closing their options and 'queering' themselves for life.
The next, and final, chapter will look at the kinds of change in our thinking and practice about sex education which will need to take effect before these devoutly-to-be-wished-for consummations can ever be achieved in anything approaching a consensual way.
14: EDUCATING FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE
In these first decades of the twenty first century, it would be nice to think the '21' could symbolise the coming-of-age of our Western society. Ours is not the only calendar, of course. There are civilisations much older than ours in India and China and other parts of the globe which reached their maturity long, long ago. We in the West are still young puppies, still full of restless energy, often unsure what to do with it all.
It cannot be denied Europe and its nearest offspring have achieved a New Age in a far more pervasive and total sense than any earlier civilisation. Neither can it be denied this New Age is thwart with all kinds of peril never before encountered. These perils are so great they threaten to undermine the very concept of a civilisation. It is as if we have climbed a very high mountain: so long as we keep a firm foothold, we are rewarded with a breathtaking view; if we lose our footing, our doom is assured.
Our first requirement is obviously peace; squaring with our bisexuality is the biggest contribution any of us can make toward the goal of building a world which has conquered violence.
There has been an obscene hypocrisy in our Western ideal of manliness. We talk and act as if our children, including our boys, mean more to us than any mere possession. We rear them, educate them, care for them as if they have supreme value in our eyes.
But, until very recently, when a lad reached his teens, it slowly dawned on him that his society, should it get itself involved in warfare - which it regularly did - expected him to have no qualms about chucking his life away when he got to be eighteen. He either had to be, or had to pretend to be, quite happy to do this or he knew he would be branded a coward. The lucky ones might escape death or serious injury, sometimes depending on their enthusiasm for shooting the other fellow first.
The slain are the ones we are taught to regard as heroes; they are awarded posthumous medals and have their names engraved on war memorials. They are also the people who, many of them, had scarcely begun their lives. However much fuss we made of them when they were children, we allowed them to become mere numbers with a terminal tag on them, pawns to be deployed and expended by generals whose lives were too important to be risked.
It is necessary to say these things when one is no longer of military age and when one's country is not fighting a war since, if neither of those things were true, such talk would be regarded as defeatist, if not downright traitorous. It is centuries of conditioning which has made this the case.
Indeed, those centuries have got into our genes in such a way that there are still millions of boys who love nothing better than to play war games. These boys still tend to associate the idea of war with excitement and adventure, giving no thought to the way in which their naive belligerence plays into the hands of cynical politicians and power-crazed rulers who will not hesitate to sacrifice them to their ambitions.
In my view, one of the best things to have happened since the end of the cold war is, in spite of appalling acts of genocide in Africa, Bosnia, Chechenya, in spite of the appalling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the disaster that is now Syria, in spite of disgusting acts of terrorism and violence in innumerable other places, there is now, at long last, a gradual but swelling tide of opinion in favour of the rule of law and the safeguarding of human rights.
Nevertheless, even if it turns out to be true that most of the major armies of the world will never again embark on a war of aggression but will henceforth be peacekeepers under international command, I for one can never forget the countless billions of young lives gobbled up by a monstrous war machine over the centuries. Apart from the personal tragedy of aborted life and the chain of bereavement it triggers, there is the totally unquantifiable loss of love, of inventiveness, of genius, of sheer human decency - all of it squandered on the battlefield.
However rosy, or otherwise, the prospect for this third millennium, we shall always be the poorer for the hideous waste and trauma of all those wars. The rest of us are to some extent brutalised and desensitised by this dreadful legacy. The best reparation we can make is to vow our own energies will be dedicated to constructive, creative, life-affirming ends and never allowed to be sucked into the vortex of destruction and slaughter and mutilation which is war.
To this end, we need to look at what is taught in schools, instilled by parents and disseminated by the media. In what follows, I shall concentrate on the first of these, not because it is more important or influential than the other two but because it is easier to regulate than the other two. If we get the classroom diet right, this will eventually affect the way in which parents, journalists, TV programmers, etc., conceive their role.
It is obviously for the specialists to decide at what age a child should learn what and to determine the best method of teaching the material. Our concern here is to identify the elements which must be incorporated into any self-respecting sex education programme fit for the twenty first century.
First, a word about priorities.
There is now a National Curriculum in Britain, as in many other parts of the world. This means it is the state rather than the individual school which determines the content of the school curriculum. There is a danger here that economic or even political considerations could unduly colour this content.
For some years, PSE [Personal and Social Education] has been included somewhere in the timetable but its prominence and content has largely depended on the school. When the National Curriculum was first being hammered out, it looked for a time as if PSE would become one of its core subjects but it was eventually decided PSE was best regarded as an "interdisciplinary dimension" rather than a subject in its own right. Teachers of almost all other subjects were urged to explore and develop the 'PSE' dimension of their subject, but, since it was not itself a subject, no teacher would have been appointed solely for qualifications in this field and no pupil would recognise it as a proper 'subject'. With pressure on schools to meet economic demands (like more emphasis on information technology or management skills) from the commercial sector, to meet assessment standards set by the government, to satisfy the entrance requirements of universities and colleges, to allay parental anxieties about moral standards, there has been little time or space to consider what it all adds up to.
It needs to be realised that education is compulsory for everybody in developed countries. In spite of this, a great deal of what is currently taught in school is only likely to be regarded as useful or intrinsically interesting by those who are more academically inclined, hence the high rates of truancy and disaffection in some sectors of the community.
PSE, on the other hand, affects every single person and should therefore be placed right at the centre of the stage. Whether a child has academic ability and ambition or not, everybody has to confront the fact he or she is a sexual being and a social being and, at the same time, a unique individual.
We no longer live in a society which seeks to pre-determine our lifestyle by requiring us to fit into a rigid traditional order. There is no longer one accepted pattern of sexual conduct or one approved model for career advancement. This being the case, there is urgent need for as much thought and deliberation as possible about the issues, dilemmas, choices and personal decisions which have to be made. If we fail to meet this need we are failing our children, however well they do in the exams.
This is obviously thorny territory because, wrongly handled, it is open to the charge of political or moral indoctrination in a way the teaching of Maths or Geography or PE is not. This thorniness is not a justification for side-stepping the issue or for consigning PSE to the rather vaporous status of an "interdisciplinary dimension". On the contrary, it is the strongest possible argument for insisting teachers who teach this subject are properly trained to teach it, that Universities and Colleges offer specialised courses in this area, that PSE be examined as a 'core' subject, and a full range of teaching aids and textbooks be made available.
In order to avoid the charge of indoctrination, it is essential material to be 'taught' should be incontrovertibly factual whilst any material which is coloured by subjective factors like religious affiliation or political bias be kept open-ended. There is no harm in a teacher's declaring a personal position from time to time so long as it is always made clear there are other possible positions.
A PSE student must never feel there is one correct answer to questions raised by such issues as solo parenthood or teenage pregnancy or contraception but have full confidence the examiner will look at [a] the factual material on which an opinion is based and [b] the merits of the arguments used to advance that opinion. The examiner’s personal view is irrelevant in the context of assessment.
It is important to notice, incidentally, this is one of the great merits of PSE as a school subject. There is far too little in the school curriculum at present which really calls for a great deal of thought. Programmes on television like University Challenge and Mastermind witness to the tremendous status we attach to accurately learned information. This is certainly not to be despised, but a good memory is only one aspect of 'mind' and not the most important. An ability to think through a complex body of fact, to weigh up the issues involved and to come to a wise evaluation of them is, most would agree, far more important than a mere capacity to absorb and store information. The word 'education' derives from a Latin root meaning 'drawing out'; it is primarily concerned with coaxing out what lies latent within a person, as opposed to merely pumping information in.
Having cleared the ground a little, I shall now try to spell out the areas of sex education which need to be covered within the context of the PSE syllabus:
 LANGUAGE: Why do we need to use Latin words for sexual organs and their functions when we are quite happy to use short, Anglo-Saxon words for all other parts of our body and all other functions?
Why does the male organ have to be described by the Latin word for 'tail' when we don't actually have tails and by a word which is awkward to put in the plural and which gives no indication whether the organ is flaccid or erect?
This is only one example: terms like 'masturbation' and 'sexual intercourse' are even more problematic. Whoever went to his room for a 'quiet masturbate' or said to his lover, 'I'd love to sexually intercourse you'?
Why should certain words be thought dirty or disreputable?
What are the pros and cons of having two sexual languages, one for polite (educational or 'serious') discourse and the other for 'under the counter' - and a growing volume of modern fiction?
Doesn't our attitude to sexual language reflect our attitude to sex itself?
 THE FACTS OF LIFE: the basic facts of reproductive anatomy, of how heterosexual acts operate, of conception, pregnancy and childbirth, of health risks and precautions, of population control, etc., are fairly well covered in most curricula, but there are some elements of sex education which are still almost entirely absent from many:
Non-reproductive sex (the kind most relevant to youngsters at school)
Very little human sexual activity is directed towards reproduction, even if some of it becomes reproductive by mistake!
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, very little thought has been given to this aspect of sex and the general attitude to it has been hostile, hence the old slogan: chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Notice this slogan implies everybody who is going to have sex is going to get married. Within this tradition, there has not, until relatively recently, been a willingness to even talk about the various kinds of non-marital sex - which does not mean, of course, they were not happening. But there were often dreadful penalties [which can be spelled out] for those who were caught having the kinds of sex which violated the slogan.
In actuality, human sexuality has many functions which have nothing to do with reproduction. Its reproductive aspect remains basic in the sense that none of us would be here without it, but, in purely quantitative terms, the huge majority of sex acts are non-reproductive,
So, why do they happen?
Some have felt - and a few still do - they shouldn't! They are so fixated on the reproductive aspect of sex they forget all its other aspects, in spite of the fact these are the aspects which loom larger in our species than in any other.
What are these other aspects?
Pleasure: because most human beings have been endowed with a sex drive far stronger than would have been necessary for reproductive purposes, neither the male's nor the female's drive being restricted to a brief 'mating season', the satisfying of sexual urges can be extremely pleasurable.
Health: by the same token, the failure to satisfy these urges, especially when they are strongly and urgently felt, can affect mental, emotional, and sometimes physical, health very adversely. Satisfying those urges sets one free to concentrate on other things for a while and can confer a great sense of well-being, although this does partly depend on the way in which the urges are satisfied.
Communication: for very many people this is far and away the most important of all sex's functions. For couples in a relationship who have had all the children they want or who know they can never have children or for gay couples, this is the dominant reason for having sex. Even for couples who are still wanting to have children, it remains a most important factor. For couples who are not in a steady relationship but feel strongly attracted to each other sexually, this aspect may again loom very large.
What is unique about sexual communicating is its directness. Other forms of communication require a verbal or symbolic language but sex uses body language and uses it in the most intimate way possible. It usually involves whole bodies, stripping away all adornments and bringing people nakedly together, nothing hidden, nothing held back. The body language covers the whole gamut of human emotion from the most wildly assertive to the most tenderly yielding.
These are the main reasons for engaging in non-reproductive sex. We can now take a look at the various possible ways in which this can happen.
Since this book is concerned with the male perspective, it restricts what follows to the male side of the picture. In a co-ed school, equal weight should be given to the feminine view. Even in a single-sex school it is important to have real insight into how the other gender tends to think about sex since many of our sexual failures and hang-ups grow out of one gender's very ill-informed or distorted perception of its opposite.
I shall use Anglo-Saxon terms throughout and trust this will increasingly be the classroom practice, though it may be necessary for a time to use the latinate and the Anglo-Saxon terms interchangeably. What must never be done is to say or imply that only the 'correct' terms are fit for serious or polite purposes.
a boy's sex organ, unlike a girl's, is often not a sex organ. When it is not, it hangs limp and is scarcely noticed, simply functioning as a tap, or cock, whenever urine is passed. There are times, however, especially from the age of puberty onwards, when the cock makes its presence emphatically felt by stiffening to become a prick (i.e. an organ which can penetrate and therefore a sex organ).
[If this usage is carefully observed, it is much simpler and much less awkward than having to talk about a 'flaccid penis' and an 'erect penis'].
This stiffening may occur for no particular reason and at times when nothing can be done about it. It may happen during sleep, prompting a 'nocturnal emission' or wet dream, so called because, before the wetness, there has often been a disturbingly erotic dream. If this happens, it is your subconscious mind letting you know there is a physical and sexual need for release. If you have got into the habit of wanking before this happens, you may never experience a wet dream because you are averting this build-up of pressure.
It used to be thought wanking was a most undesirable and harmful practice, likely to cause anything from blindness to insanity. It is now recognised this is nonsense. Excessive wanking, like excessive eating, will not do you any good but there is no rule about what would be excessive, since each boy's physical build and level of sex drive differs. It is best to let your body be your guide.
As well as providing an outlet for the semen, or cum, which has accumulated in your body, wanking provides a pleasurable sexual experience which, unlike a wet dream, you can control. It is also a good way of learning which forms of stimulation bring which kinds of sensation and of regulating the process so it lasts a sufficient length of time and is not over almost before it has started.
Wanking is most often done by hand or hands, but sometimes by lying down and pressing against a (suitably protected) pillow or cushion. There is scope for a good deal of variation.
Wanking also often introduces us to fantasising, another kind of non-reproductive sex which can also happen without wanking or even without becoming particularly aroused. Fantasies are often assisted by looking at erotic pictures or reading erotic stories, but they are often freely invented. Since actual people are not involved, the fantasies may sometimes go well beyond anything you would want to happen in actuality or even beyond anything which actually could happen. There is no harm in this so long as you do not start wanting to actualise your fantasies, simply making use of other people to act out your own private scenario.
If you are experiencing a lot of sexual feeling but are not wanting yet to get involved with another person, wanking is the ideal means of relieving the pressure in a way which can lead to an intensely satisfying climax with no health risk, no risk of causing a pregnancy, and no danger of getting into the kind of relationship you could later regret.
this is quite often something which happens right from the start because you first learned to wank with a friend, or friends. If this has been the case, wanking has, at least sometimes, been a social rather than a solitary practice, permitting you to get to know and to handle pricks other than your own. This is intensely pleasurable and can be useful as a means of sampling the range of possible pricks, since no two are exactly alike.
Some curve much more markedly than others when fully erect whilst some are much bigger than others. The glans, at its rim, may be broader or narrower than the shaft, the shaft may be thick or thin, the foreskin (if there is one; some boys are still circumcised, or cut), may be longer or shorter and may or may not retract easily; balls also come in widely varying shapes and sizes and hang differently at different times and temperatures.
Being able to compare notes like this can be very reassuring, especially if you are bothered about the way your equipment looks or functions. You may still feel you don't compare very favourably with your friends but at least you know for certain there is no one standard model.
Another great gain of mutual wanking is it can be a wonderful way of becoming really intimate with a friend or friends you like. If you can share sex with a friend, you are likely to feel open and trusting with each other about everything else, the sex itself acting as a powerful bond between you. As your friendship matures, you may well feel you want to extend the range of the sex beyond the merely genital and go on to still more intimate forms of lovemaking like
it may sound strange - 'queer' in fact - to be kissing another fellow, but that may only be because, until relatively recently, anything associated with gay sex was strictly taboo. It all depends on how you really feel. If you have got to the point of knowing you really love another guy and are not satisfied merely to be with him, to talk intimately together, to have an occasional wank together, but want to express your feelings in a more direct and total way, then kissing is the natural next step. It has to be mutual of course; there is no joy in kissing somebody who doesn't want to be kissed. If you are not sure, ask how the other person feels. When a feeling is mutual, a kiss can be a wonderful experience, paving the way to a new level of intimacy. Kissing also usually acts as the entry-point to full-bodied sexual involvement since it is almost invariably accompanied by hugging and stroking, which soon wants to get underneath clothes so there is flesh-to-flesh contact and, wherever possible, total nudity. This introduces a new dimension into the relationship. To be partially clothed and simply working away on each other’s pricks is one thing; to be nakedly embracing and kissing, body to body, prick to prick, lip to lip, is something quite different.
Opinions differ about the importance of these two modes of sex. Some feel it is not important at all and are quite capable of enjoying the full range of sex with virtually anybody they take a fancy to and who is similarly attracted. Some others make quite a sharp distinction and, whilst they can enjoy strictly genital sex with virtually anybody who feels likewise, they would want to reserve the full-bodied kind of intimacy for those with whom they want to establish a particularly close and lasting bond.
Kissing may begin just with lip contact but usually progresses quite quickly to involve exploring tongues. If this is mutually desired and if circumstances permit, this may lead to a full-scale sex act which goes a good deal beyond just mutual wanking and kissing.
once kissing begins to move away from lips, it tends to be a different kind of experience, one person being the kisser and the other the kissed, one lying back whilst the other kisses various parts of his body. Eventually the kisser will arrive at the genitals, kissing the prick and, again if this is mutually desired, taking it into his mouth. He will then administer what is often referred to as a blow job, presumably because, once the glans has been moistened in the partner's mouth, it can receive subtle sensations by being blown on. Sucking is a more accurate description of what more usually takes place, although even this is a bit misleading since, whilst some sucking may be involved, oral sex is often mainly a matter of the active partner taking the other guy's prick in his mouth, moving his lips up and down the shaft and using his tongue in various ways to enhance sensation, especially around the glans.
If positions are reversed so each partner can get his mouth to the other’s prick, it is possible for oral sex to be administered and received by each simultaneously - what is commonly known as sixty-nineing because a 6 and a 9 are the reverse of each other and can be fitted together to make a whole.
Fellows are often better at giving and receiving this kind of sex than mixed couples.
If one or both comes to climax this way, it is better not to swallow the cum unless you are each absolutely certain there is no risk of transmitting an infection. The cum itself can be swallowed with impunity and some tribes in New Guinea have considered boys can only grow to maturity if they swallow it! In our kind of society, in its present state, a great deal of caution is necessary if one is to stay healthy.
If oral sex is not continued to the point of climax, or if it is not on the agenda at all, and if something more is desired than mutual wanking, the likely outcome will be some form of
the male has an in-built desire to thrust more or less vigorously when he has sex with a female and may well feel a similar desire when he is with a male. Oral sex permits a little gentle thrusting but something more energetic may be desired by both parties for the finale. Since one partner is now going to be more active than the other, they can either take it in turns to be in each role, or, if preferred, they can each adopt the role they find most congenial.
The most usual kind of fucking between males - and much the safest - is when the fellow on top thrusts against some part of the other's anatomy, prick-to-prick being a hot favourite because it is the most mutual; the fellow underneath can do quite a bit of thrusting to meet the thrusts of his lover on top and, if he does not come to climax like this, can reverse roles as soon as his partner has come.
If the lovers remain standing, one can put his prick between the other's legs, just below his balls or, if from behind, just below his bum, and the other can clasp the prick as tightly as possible by putting his legs together with one foot behind the other. By fucking in this position the thruster can give a good deal of stimulation to his partner: if from the front, by his thrusting pubic region against the other's prick or, if from behind, by fondling or wanking his partner's prick as he thrusts.
It is very important to notice everything we have described until now concerns what happens when a male has sex on his own or with another male and it has all involved his own or the other guy's sex organs. If it is not solo sex, what we have been describing comes under the heading of homosexual or gay sex but is of a kind which is very widely desired and experienced and which is perfectly consistent with heterosexual, or straight sex.
There is another kind of sex which can happen between males which is very much less common and very much more problematic. This is anal sex. You sometimes hear people talk as if this is the typical kind of gay sex, but a moment's thought will make it clear it is not and cannot possibly be. Both genders are endowed with an anus, so anal sex can happen between same-sex or between mixed couples. Furthermore, the anus is not a sex organ, although it is capable of being eroticised, which may partly be a throw-back to early childhood when, at one stage in our development, having a motion was a fascinating and pleasurable business. When one man seeks to penetrate another man anally, he is seeing him, not as another man, but as a surrogate woman and seeking a quasi-heterosexual, not a homosexual, experience. The person on the receiving end is having an experience analogous to a woman's and one which does not necessarily involve his own sex organs at all. In other words, he is having a transsexual, not a homosexual, experience.
Boys and youths should be aware they can be seen as very attractive by older men, not because they are male, but because they still resemble girls. Their voices have not broken, they have not started to grow beards or develop heavy muscles. A young fellow may feel flattered by this sort of attention and not be too bothered if he starts being fondled, hugged, stroked, kissed and, eventually, made to feel his bum, not his genitals, are the natural focus of attention.
Some boys instinctively recoil if and when things reach this stage and extricate themselves as quickly as they can. Some just want to know where all this will lead and are curious to know what it would feel like to be penetrated by another man. Some who decide to give it a go are repelled by experience and know they will never repeat it. Some have no very strong feelings about it but know it does nothing for them sexually. A few feel they have discovered the truth about themselves and thoroughly enjoy relating to another man in this feminine way.
Three things need to be said:  anal sex is in a quite different category from the homosexual interest of one fellow in another and should never be confused with it;  anal sex involves life-threatening health hazards unless it is protected by a condom and managed with great care;  if a fellow begins to feel the passive role in anal sex is the only sexual experience he can want or enjoy, he is at war with his biological gender, may eventually seek a sex change, but needs to think things through very carefully and get the best advice he can.
After this detour about anal sex, which will only ever involve a small minority of males, we can return to the main track. So far, we have dealt with solo wanking, mutual wanking and more advanced same-sex lovemaking. This is the path along which most fellows progress, but there are no hard and fast rules of course. How it works out for a particular person will partly depend on circumstances.
If a boy has grown up in a mainly male environment, things are likely to have gone much in the way we have indicated. If he has spent a good deal of time with girls, sometimes in erotic play, or been approached by an older woman, or if his natural inclination is to be with girls rather than boys right from early childhood, things may happen almost in the reverse way.
However, the most common situation is for a boy to graduate from solo sex to varying degrees of sexual involvement with other boys before getting seriously interested in girls.
Two things, both important, need to be said at this point:  if, as a boy matures, he finds he, unlike his pals, is not getting more interested in girls than boys but, on the contrary, is becoming more interested in boys than before, this indicates a dominant sex drive which is homosexual and is likely to remain so;  if a maturing boy finds his sexual interest is turning exclusively towards girls, possibly towards one girl in particular, he will know his dominant drive is going to be heterosexual and is likely to remain so.
As things are, boys in category  will be encouraged to 'come out' and declare themselves to be gay, whilst boys in category  will be encouraged to regard any prior homosexual experience they have had as a passing phase and to feel they have now emerged as completely straight.
Be very much on your guard against these pressures.
It may be true boys in both these categories will, for a time, be wholly absorbed by their new identity, the first group by their deepened interest in other fellows and the second by their new preoccupation with girls.
It may be a few years before they begin to chafe against the rigidity of the roles they have adopted but they should not try to suppress this feeling if and when it comes. It is entirely likely they will come to a growing realisation that their dominant sex drive is not by any means the only factor, may not even be the main factor, in working out a satisfying sexual and emotional life. The most likely indicators of dissatisfaction with the status quo, taking each category in turn, are:
 a feeling of being shut off from intimacy with women, of feeling trapped within the gay scene, of having 'lost out' because of not having had sex with a woman, of being deprived of children and all that fatherhood entails;
 a feeling of having lost the old sense of intimacy with other fellows, of feeling trapped in the role of 'family man', of being somehow incomplete because of never having really loved another guy, of feeling distorted by having become too domesticated and too much taken for granted.
It is worth filing away in your memory, if and when these feelings begin to nag, there is no need to shy away from them. They are probably early indications the time is approaching when you will need to work out the kind of bisexual lifestyle which best suits you and the people closest to you.
This is becoming increasingly easy. There are, in fact, quite a number of people, both male and female, who have kept their bisexual options open right from the word go, never allowing themselves to be pushed into one exclusive camp.
Returning to the period just after puberty, this is the time when the majority of boys begin to explore the feminine world in real earnest.
Their first discovery is likely to be, in spite of our modern rejection of the old, rigid gender stereotypes and the adoption of unisex clothing and hairstyles, there are still some fundamental differences in the way the two genders operate sexually, differences which are based on biology:
[a] Every time a male 'comes', he parts with millions of sperms. Over a lifetime, if all his sperms fertilised an egg, he could easily populate the planet. A female, by contrast, has only a few eggs and usually parts with just one a month. This means a woman is likely to be much more cautious than a man before she embarks on sex, especially if a pregnancy may possibly ensue. In such situations, she will naturally be concerned about such factors as his suitability to be a father for her child and a long-term partner for herself.
[b] Male genitals are out in the open and, when sexually aroused, they make this very apparent. Female genitals are internal and give no clearly visible signs of sexual arousal.
[c] Because a mother bears, gives birth to and often suckles her babies, she is in a closer relation to them than a father. This gives her an emotional and erotic dimension which a man does not have in the same degree and also makes physical demands which can affect her enthusiasm for sex with her partner.
These underlying differences are not likely to be much in evidence in the early days of a relationship, although a boy will quickly sense that relating to a woman is a different experience from relating to another fellow.
However, as sexual intimacy develops, he discovers there are some striking similarities between the kinds of sex he has had with other fellows and what he is now experiencing:
a similar kind of sexual excitement develops; he has an erection and, if he fondles her breasts, her nipples become erect and, if he strokes between her legs, her clit (clitoris), also stiffens (which isn't surprising since this is actually an embryonic cock/prick, its only function in the female being to yield erotic pleasure) ; just as his prick tends to emit oil when the excitement intensifies, so her cunt also tends to emit a similar oil; his manipulation of her nipples and clit and hers of his prick and balls produce very much the same kind of feelings as same-sex manipulation and in fact may result in mutual climax in much the same way as mutual same-sex wanking.
Full-scale fucking, however, is a very different experience, particularly if the male has never got beyond mutual wanking with other fellows. Even if a youth has got emotionally, as well as sexually, close to another fellow, kissing, sucking, hugging, stroking, prick-to-prick or prick-to-body fucking, there is still something quite distinctively different about heterosexual fucking. This stems from the matching of organs which are purpose-built for each other and from the relational warmth and ease which this physical matching tends to generate.
Coupled with the physical matching of opposite genders, is the equally satisfying way in which mixed-sex partners complement each other mentally and emotionally. It would be rare for same-sex partners to do this to the same extent. This is certainly not a reason for disparaging same-sex relationships, which have their own distinctive value and importance, but it is a reminder some of the factors which operate in sex have much more to do with basic biology than with what happens to be a person's dominant drive.
The aim of the kind of sex education programme we have outlined (which is, of course, only one major ingredient in a much wider course of personal and social education) is to encourage children and young adults to regard sex as a central ingredient in their lives and one which has many subtle facets. Taken together, they can help to make us more interesting, more contented and more constructively oriented persons who have the strongest possible motivation for wanting the best of all possible worlds.
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